Luck or fraud? Nebraska store manager accused of scratching $300,000 ticket before buying it

From a big win to a big scam!

Luck or fraud? Nebraska store manager accused of scratching $300,000 ticket before buying it
Jeremiah Ehlers with his Nebraska Lottery $300,000 check. Photograph credit to the Nebraska Lottery.

In one month's time, a Nebraska man went from riding a lottery high to now being investigated on suspicion of lottery fraud!

The winning ticket

The Nebraska Lottery announced in April that Jeremiah Ehlers won $300,000 playing Diamond Dollars, the $30 Nebraska Lottery scratch game. Ehlers purchased the winning ticket at Greeley Rapid Stop, located at 101 W. O'Neill Ave. in Greeley.

At the time, Ehlers told Lottery officials that he'd been playing Scratch tickets with a coworker the night before his big win, but they weren't having any luck. They called it a night, but he said he “joked the next one was going to be the big winner.”

The next morning came, and Ehlers bought a ticket, and it was the $300,000 winner! He wasted no time either. After scanning the ticket two or three times to make sure he was reading it correctly, he jumped in his car and headed to Lincoln to claim his prize on April 12.

A plot twist no one saw coming

While the Nebraska Lottery was celebrating Ehlers's big win, it looked like the wheels were working behind the scenes. 

The Nebraska Department of Revenue obtained a search warrant this week to take back the money Ehlers had won, which came to $213,000 after taxes.

The Nebraska Department of Revenue worked with Ehlers' bank, which turned over a cashier's check for just under $128,800, which was about $84,200 shy of the amount he received from the Lottery.

In the affidavit for the search warrant, Deputy State Sheriff Bradley Burleigh of the Nebraska Department of Revenue said Ehlers turned in his winning Diamond Dollars scratch ticket to the Nebraska Lottery headquarters on April 12. He claimed his prize, and on that same day, he deposited the winnings into his bank account.

According to Burleigh, Ehlers was fired a week later from his job as manager of the Rapid Stop convenience store in Greeley, which just so happened to be the same store where Greeley got the winning ticket.

The district manager for Rapid Stop contacted the Nebraska Lottery investigation unit and said he was actually investigating Ehlers for allegedly stealing lottery tickets from the Greeley store where he had been employed.

The alleged scheme to win money

According to the affidavit, Burleigh told officials that they suspected Ehlers had been taking lottery tickets from the business without paying for them since October 2023. They obtained security camera footage from April 12, which allegedly showed Ehlers taking a Diamond Dollars lottery ticket without paying, scratching it, scanning it twice at the lottery terminal, and then paying for it.

So, Ehlers was allegedly scratching tickets over and over again and only paying for them when he got a winner. While Ehlers told Lottery officials that he and a coworker were scratching tickets while at work and having no luck, there is no mention of the coworker in the affidavit.

Authorities said Burleigh believed the money in the bank account would “disappear if not seized, and the money is evidence of theft.” An employee allegedly told Burleigh that Ehlers had already bought a 2019 Dodge Ram and was contacting people around Greeley to pay debts.

As of Thursday afternoon, Ehlers hadn't been charged with a crime, but the investigation is ongoing.

Enjoy playing the Nebraska Lottery, and please remember to play responsibly.


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