Police open probe of fraudulent Ontario lottery wins

Ontario Provincial Police have been called in to investigate tens of millions of dollars in suspicious lottery wins following a damning report by the Ontario ombudsman.

Ontario Provincial Police have been called in to investigate tens of millions of dollars in suspicious lottery wins— prizes paid out to ticket retailers and lottery corporation insiders— following a damning report by the Ontario ombudsman Monday.

The minister responsible for the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, David Caplan, announced late Monday that he's ordered the corporation tohand over all relevant files on insider wins to the police.

Ombudsman André Marin said Monday the government-owned corporation is "too cozy" with its retailers and paid out $100 million to "lottery insiders" from 1999 to 2006.

But he also said it would be difficult for police to investigate the fraudulent payouts.

"The problem— there's no paper trail. There's very, very little [documentation] because of the disinterest they've had for so many years. You're dealing with shreds of paper you can't connect together," Marin said.

Marin accuses OLG bosses of paying out big prizes to hundreds of their own retailers, knowing some were cheats.

"It's likely that over the course of the years there's tens of millions of dollars that have been paid to internal fraudsters.

"It's likely that high. We'll never quite know, because the OLG does not keep track of the number of retailers it has [and] does not keep track of retailer wins," Marin said.

The chair of the OLG board of directors, Michael Gough, said theOLG has tried to recoup some of the money in the case of a man swindled out of a $250,000winning ticket.

"I suspect it is with the retailers who defrauded Bob Edmonds. We are slowly, slowly recovering the money that was improperly paid out to them. I think it is unlikely to be [totally] recovered," Gough said.

OPP Insp. Dave Ross said his force will examine whatever OLG records there are. But he said he has no idea whether money can be recovered, or whether insiders who swindled the public out of winning tickets might face prosecution.

"You know, we are interested in making sure the public is satisfied with the investigation, and that we look at all aspects of the investigation. But it's too early to speculate on what the scope of it would be until we review the information that's provided to us," Ross said.

The OPP was asked earlier to investigate whether gaming officials obstructed the first police investigation into the Bob Edmonds case. Ross says that investigation is now finished, and police have no evidence that officials intended to obstruct justice.

Marin also confirmed Monday that he has been swamped with hundreds of other complaints, this time about casinos and slot machines.

Last month, the province pulled 87 slot machines from its casinos after CBC News discovered they were rapidly flashing jackpot symbols at players without their knowledge.

Gambling watchdog groups have also filed formal complaints about a lack of testing and standards for the province's gambling machines.