SEMINOLE, Fla. - Each year the Florida Lottery pays out billions of dollars in prizes.
But as I-Team investigator Adam Walser has discovered, there are some people who may be taking winning tickets out of your hands.
What he found out has state lottery officials taking action.
Lottery players chase a dream one ticket at a time.
“Just wanna win, that's all. I just wanna win,” said lottery player Sandra Beall, who said she has played the lottery hundreds of times but has never won more than $300.
Records obtained by the I-Team show some people are winning a thousand dollars or more time and time again.
Of the Tampa Bay area's top 10 winners of scratch off games, nine had something in common. They were all affiliated with retail stores that sell lottery tickets.
“No matter what, something is not right,” said Richard Lustig.
He wrote a best-selling book after winning seven Florida Lottery grand prizes.
“It took me years of trial and error and a lot of losses to get to the point where I could play the game so there was a lot less losses and a lot more winners,” Lustig said.
Lustig, who plays a variety of games daily, has been to the Florida Lottery Office to cash in winning tickets of more than $600 23 times in the past two decades.
But Pinellas County convenience store owner Chirag Parmar once claimed five $1,000 prizes in only one day.
His mom once claimed 12 wins in a day.
Together they had 47 prizes of a thousand dollars or more in just three years.
“The odds are way against that happening,” Lustig said.
The odds of winning a thousand dollars in a scratch-off game are about 1 in 2,000.
We tried to talk to Parmar about his winning secrets, but he didn't want to do an on-camera interview.
Tampa store owner Mujahed Elbooz also won repeatedly, claiming $5,000 and $10,000 prizes in back to back months.
The odds of each of those wins is 1 in 60,000.
Parmar originally told us he only plays the lottery a few times a year and never plays at his own stores. Just gets lucky, he said.
But records we obtained show that nearly half of the winning tickets he and his mom cashed in came from the seven convenience stores in which Parmar has an ownership interest.
After we started asking questions, the lottery office took action late last week, suspending lottery sales from all Parmar's stores for suspicious ticket purchases and claims.
“There's something going on," said Lustig.
“That tells me that this probably isn't worth my ten bucks I just paid for it,” said Beall, holding a scratch-off ticket.
In the past six months, the Florida lottery has suspended or revoked the contracts of more than 30 stores for violating lottery rules or state laws.
The Florida Lottery said in a statement, "The lottery is implementing further standards and will be introducing a player protection awareness campaign in the coming weeks."