A Nova Scotia convenience store owner has been barred from selling lottery tickets for 90 days for allegedly meddling with crossword scratch and win tickets — the first case of ticket tampering discovered in the province.

The Alcohol and Gaming Division of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations suspended Nassim Joukhadar, owner of Joey's Convenience in Beaver Bank, under the Atlantic Lottery Regulations.

John MacDonald, executive director of the Alcohol and Gaming Division, said the tampering was likely done with a sharp object such as a pin.

He suspects Joukhadar, who is the only employee of the store, was making very small scratches to reveal coloured patterns under the scratchable latex in the bonus section of the $3-crossword ticket.

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Winning tickets can be differentiated from losing ones based on the colour under the latex. (CBC)

Winning tickets can be differentiated from losing ones based on the colour under the latex.

"In this case there were 11 [unsold] tickets that showed identical signs of tampering," said MacDonald.

"We worked with the [Atlantic Lottery Corporation's] risk and compliance unit — they're the ones who are the experts in whether or not tickets have been tampered with — and they confirmed that it did appear as though the tickets were tampered with."

Under the suspension, Joey's Convenience loses its Atlantic Lottery Corporation's retailer designation for 90 days. The tampering was discovered on Jan. 8 and the suspension began on Jan. 27. 

Joukhadar has 15 days to appeal the suspension order. 

MacDonald said if fraud charges were to be brought forward, individual offenders could face fines of up to $5,000 while corporate offenders could face fines of up to $50,000.

"In this case, we didn't have any evidence that fraud actually occurred so it wasn't an indication that a person had allegedly stolen money from anyone else — it's that the tickets were tampered with," said MacDonald.

There are approximately 1,000 lottery retailers in the province and last year, there were 694 inspections.