Nebraska Store Manager Will ‘Get The Book Thrown At Him’ For Alleged Lottery Fraud, Lawyer Says

Christian Holmes

Updated on:

jail cell

A convenience store manager in Nebraska got caught allegedly stealing lottery tickets, and one legal expert believes jail time awaits if he’s found guilty of the crime.

Jeremiah Ehlers won a hefty $300,000 prize on a scratch card that he “purchased” at the Rapid Stop store in Greeley, Nebraska, where he worked. However, he might have obtained the ticket illegally, and now he is under investigation for lottery fraud. 

How it began

In early May, the Nebraska Department of Revenue (NDR) thought something was fishy about Ehlers’ big win. There was enough suspicion for them to seek out a search warrant and try to take back the money that Ehlers won, which was $213,000 after taxes. 

In the affidavit for the search warrant, Deputy State Sheriff Bradley Burleigh of the NDR said that on April 12, Ehlers had taken a winning “Diamond Dollars” scratch ticket to the Nebraska Lottery headquarters, claimed the prize, and deposited it in his bank account the same day.

When the NDR moved to take the money back, Ehlers’ bank wrote a cashier’s check for just under $128,800 — about $84,000 shy.

According to local reports from The Grand Island Independent, Ehlers’ co-workers said they heard he used some of the money to buy a 2019 Dodge Ram truck and pay off debts he owed to people within the community.

In the affidavit for the search warrant, Burleigh said he believed the remaining money in the bank account “will disappear if not seized, and the money is evidence of theft.”

The plot thickens

According to Burleigh, Ehlers was fired from his job as manager of the Rapid Stop store a week after his big win. Investigators said the district manager (a couple of steps above Ehlers in the store hierarchy) suspected Ehlers had been taking lottery tickets from the store without paying for them since October.

The claim is that he scratched tickets, and if they did not win, he would not pay for them, but if they did win, he would pay for them and collect the winnings.

A security video from April 12 allegedly showed Ehlers taking a Diamond Dollars lottery ticket without paying, scratching it, scanning it twice at the lottery terminal, and then paying for the ticket. This was allegedly the ticket worth $300,000.

How screwed is Ehlers?

Lottery Geeks spoke with securities attorney Andrew Stoltman to get his insights on what could happen with Ehlers now that investigators have started building a case. 

It’s important to note that, as of this writing, Ehlers has not been charged with a crime. He is only being investigated and is innocent until proven guilty. 

However, Stoltman said state officials will hit Ehlers hard if they do indeed press charges.

“If what is alleged is true,” Stoltman said, “the lottery and prosecutors will throw the book at him in order to make an example and deter others from doing the same thing.”

In other modern cases, prosecutors from other states have leveled harsh punishments for lottery fraudsters. About a year ago, a father and son duo in Massachusetts was sentenced to five- and four-year prison stints for their schemes.

Felony classification Is Critical

Stoltman said that with any theft over $5,000, the accused would face felony charges. The amount Ehlers claimed is well over $5,000.

Depending on how the eventual charges are dealt with, they could be categorized as Class llA, which carries a one-year minimum prison sentence and a 50-year maximum sentence. If prosecutors choose to go easier on him, Ehlers could get a Class IV felony charge, which carries a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment and one year of post-release supervision.

What if Ehlers shells out enough cash for Nebraska’s version of Saul Goodman? Could a good lawyer get him out of the doghouse?

“I can’t imagine a way that he comes out of this situation scot-free,” Stoltman said. “I would think prosecutors would demand some jail time. This isn’t the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby, so it likely wouldn’t be more than five years, but I would fully expect him to serve some jail time.”