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2 Charleston residents each redeemed more than 120 winning lottery tickets. A new audit of the South Carolina lottery says those numbers are suspicious. Gwinn Davis/Special to The Post and Courier

Are they lucky or are they cheating?

A recent audit of the South Carolina Education Lottery has found a number of people who redeemed a suspiciously high number of winning tickets in recent years. 

The audit, published Thursday by the state's Legislative Audit Council, examined lottery winnings from November 2008 to November 2017 and identified the 10 most frequent prize claimants. 

"Frequent redemption of winning lottery tickets with prizes greater than $500 is highly improbable and may be an indication that claimants purchased the tickets through transactions not authorized by state law," according to the audit. "Tickets with prizes greater than $500 represent just 0.03 percent of all winning tickets."

Suspect claims ranged around the state but included three from Charleston and one from Hanahan, according to the audit. 

The suspect claims from the tri-county area are as follows: 

  • A Charleston resident who redeemed 125 tickets and won $289,045.
  • A Charleston resident who redeemed 122 tickets and won $205,014.
  • A Charleston resident who redeemed 59 tickets and won $83,594.
  • A Hanahan resident who redeemed 53 tickets and won $130,015.

"We found that the Lottery is good at identifying suspicious patterns of frequent prize claims," said Earle Powell, director of the Legislative Audit Council. "They have not, however, calculated the statistical probability that these patterns are the result of legitimate play. We are recommending that they routinely conduct this analysis to better investigate these suspicious claims."

While the audit does not draw absolute conclusions or state outright that anyone has committed a crime, it does state there is a strong probability that individuals are purchasing winning lottery tickets on the resale market.

State lottery officials do not interpret state law as prohibiting such resale and do not discourage or otherwise prevent the practice, according to the audit. 

But the auditors do argue that the practice may be illegal because state law requires lottery tickets to be sold at prices approved by the state Lottery Commission and by licensed retailers.

"The resale process is characterized by lottery tickets being sold for prices lower than the prize amount, as noted above, and for significantly higher than face value," the audit states. "Resale transactions also include sellers who may not be licensed lottery retailers and who are not acting on behalf of the lottery."

State lottery officials have two conflicting incentives under the law, the auditors conclude. It is in their best interest to sell as many tickets as possible but are also tasked with regulating sales. 

"There may be reduced incentive to address misconduct that does not negatively affect sales," according to the audit. "There also may be reduced incentive to take actions that may reduce sales."

State lottery officials could not be reached for comment on Thursday. 

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Reach Gregory Yee at 843-937-5908. Follow him on Twitter @GregoryYYee.

Gregory Yee covers breaking news and public safety. He's a native Angeleno and previously covered crime and courts for the Press-Telegram in Long Beach, CA. He studied journalism and Spanish literature at the University of California, Irvine.

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