LISBON - Three people have been charged in connection with defrauding the Ohio Lottery Commission, one of whom owned and operated the East Liverpool convenience store where the alleged crime occurred.
Served with secret indictments issued by the Columbiana County grand jury were:
- Saleh M. Fahmawi, 38, of Canfield, charged with theft, telecommunications fraud and receiving stolen property.
- Ashraf M. Fahmawi, 26, of Canfield, charged with theft, telecommunications, fraud and receiving stolen property.
- Rouz A. Elkady, 35, of Canfield, charged with receiving stolen property and theft.
According to Ohio Lottery Commission records and OLC information officer Marie Kilbane, Saleh owned and operated the Convenient Food Mart, Lisbon Street, East Liverpool, and his brother, Ashraf worked there. Elkady is Saleh's girlfriend, and all three were living at the same address at the time of the alleged crime.
Acting on several anonymous complaints about possible lottery theft occurring at the store, the OLC sent an undercover agent there on Aug. 23 with a bogus Instant ticket programmed to be a winner worth $10,000. The agent handed the ticket to the clerk to be checked and then walked to the back of the store to get a soda pop. The agent then heard chimes from the lottery scanner that denotes a winning ticket and was told by the clerk he had won $25. The person handed the ticket was later identified as Ashraf, who reportedly turned it over to Saleh to be checked.
The agent was paid $25 and left. The bogus ticket was later validated for $10,000 the same day from the store, and Elkady filed a claim for the $10,000 on Sept. 7.
OLC investigators, accompanied by East Liverpool police, went to the convenience store on Sept. 19 and questioned Saleh, who was read his rights but indicated he did not understand English very well despite being in the United States for six years. The investigator asked him how was he able to operate a business and become a lottery retailer without understanding English. Saleh laughed and stated he did not know what they were talking about or anything that was going on.
OLC officials removed the lottery terminals from the store the same day. The store has since be sold to a new owner.
Kilbane emphasized the majority of lottery operators are honest, and she reminded customers they can check tickets for themselves by using store scanners or going to the OLC website.