Shop worker Farrakh Nizzar jailed for £1m lottery scam bid

 

A shop worker has been jailed for 30 months for trying to claim a winning £1 million lottery ticket belonging to a pensioner couple.

Farrakh Nizzar, 30, told Maureen Holt her EuroMillions ticket was a loser - and asked her if she wanted the ticket back.

Mrs Holt, 78, and her husband Fred, 80, who knew Nizzar by his nickname of "Lucky", told him to bin the worthless ticket.

In fact when Nizzar had scanned the ticket at his cousin's Best One shop in Oldham, Greater Manchester, where he worked, the terminal told him the holder should contact Camelot.

Nizzar, an illegal over-stayer in the UK who is due to be deported to Pakistan, kept the ticket and later called the lottery company himself in an attempt to keep the prize.

But the firm became suspicious when he was unable to answer questions about the winning ticket.

Camelot checked CCTV and traced the rightful owners of the ticket using Mr Holt's Tesco Clubcard to unite the couple with their £1 million prize.

Nizzar pleaded guilty last month to one charge of fraud by false representation committed on May 31 this year.

He bowed his head and made no reaction as he was jailed at Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester.

Passing sentence, Recorder Philip Cattan told the defendant: "This goes to the heart of public confidence in the National Lottery.

"The courts must demonstrate to you and to others that this type of fraud will be met by significant custody."

Duncan Wilcock, prosecuting, told the court that on June 21 this year, Mrs Holt and her husband, a retired Royal Navy engineer, completed their weekly shop at Tesco Extra in Oldham.

As was their routine, Mr Holt paid for the groceries and used his Tesco Clubcard and Mrs Holt went to the kiosk to get their lottery tickets - including one for the following Friday's EuroMillions draw.

The next day the couple flew to Spain for a week to celebrate Mr Holt's 80th birthday.

When they returned, Mrs Holt went to their local convenience store, Best One in Watersheddings, Oldham, where Nizzar worked, on June 30.

Mr Wilcock told the court: "While there she got the tickets checked by this defendant, who was known to them by the nickname Lucky.

"She thought he was a really nice man, nice in all ways.

"She asked him to check the lottery tickets. Lucky told her she had not won."

In fact, after scanning the EuroMillions ticket, the terminal had notified Nizzar that the ticket was a winner with the message to contact Camelot directly.

Mrs Holt bought some more tickets for the next draw, left the shop and "thought no more about it", Mr Wilcock said.

"This defendant had in fact contacted Camelot to say he had won a prize."

But Nizzar was unable to answer questions about how and where he bought the ticket - and Camelot launched an investigation.

The winning ticket was traced as having been bought at the Tesco Extra in Oldham.

The computer record of Mr Holt using his Tesco Clubcard while paying for the couple's weekly shop was traced and the time of the purchase used to check the store's CCTV footage - showing Mrs Holt on camera.

"That was how they were able to establish how they bought the winning ticket," the prosecutor added.

Camelot then confronted Nizzar with the evidence - who then "looked at the floor for some time" but claimed it was his ticket and blamed his "bad memory". He was arrested by police on July 29 and pleaded guilty at Oldham Magistrates' Court last month.

Carolyn Smith, mitigating, said Nizzar came to the UK in 2007 on a student visa and completed a postgraduate diploma in business studies.

But his student visa ran out, he was refused leave to remain in the UK and exhausted all his rights to appeal.

As an "over-stayer" he had no rights to work or claim benefits and was faced with "irresistible temptation" to claim the winning ticket himself.

He has since written a letter of apology to Mr and Mrs Holt, the court was told.

Miss Smith added: "This offence was the very definition of opportunistic.

"When the machine indicated the ticket holder should contact Camelot he would have realised that was a winning ticket for a significant amount.

"Clearly this was a split second decision to keep it and tell Mrs Holt she had not won."

After the case a statement from Mr and Mrs Holt said: "We are glad that justice has been done and that this matter is now behind us.

"We can now look forward to enjoying our lottery win and spending some time with our family and friends. We understand the defendant has written a letter to us and we look forward to reading this."

The lottery terminal at the Best One shop where Nizzar worked has been removed and the shop is no longer licensed to sell tickets.

Camelot said in a statement: "We expect each and every one of our retailers to act as an advocate for, and uphold the values of, the National Lottery.

"Where we believe unlawful activity has taken place, we will not hesitate to report the matter to the appropriate enforcement body - in this case Greater Manchester Police - and assist it in any investigation.

"We have stringent operations in place to prevent and detect fraud and to monitor suspicious activity.

"Indeed, the robustness of our investigation and the strength of evidence we provided in the case of Farrakh Nizzar resulted in him pleading guilty to the charge he faced."

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