School closings & delays

Store owner struggling after employees embezzle $64k in lotto tickets

BELDING, Mich. -- Like many small business owners, Sam Mason is very hands on in his store. In fact, the Belding Party Store owner says he has no choice but to be at this point. That's after a couple of his employees embezzled nearly $64,000 worth of lottery tickets.

Mason said, "It was very hard to believe. It was disheartening. It was one of them things... how could you do this to me?"

Candace McAllister, 34, and Cynthia Wright, 61, did him wrong. They've gone through the court process after betraying Mason's trust. He said the discovery came very slowly, but the math wasn't adding up. Fortunately for him, he has surveillance cameras.

"You could physically see 'em on the film before work, after work, at different times, pulling off tickets, scanning (the tickets) and not paying for 'em," Mason explained.

The money people pay for lotto tickets goes to the state lotto commission. Well, since Wright and McAllister stole the tickets, Mason had to pay the nearly $64,000 out of his own pocket. He says his mother cashed out her retirement to help.

"It's almost bankrupted me. I'm not gonna lie. If it wasn't for family members helping me pay back what I had to pay back," Mason said.

A judge ordered Wright and McAllister to repay Mason, his insurance provider, and accountant $40,000 and $24,000, respectively.
However, he says that doesn't include stolen cigarettes, food, candy and cash. He says he's not sure how he'll collect the restitution.

Mason said, "There's a lot of people that are worse off than I am. I was born and raised to be a fighter. Ya know, whatever it takes to make it work I'm going to do what you go to do to work."

He says one of the women won $6,000 and got to keep the winnings. He's also disappointed that neither got very much time in jail.

Ionia County prosecutor Kyle Butler says the sentencing guidelines are initially set by the Michigan Department of Corrections.

Butler also said in an email to FOX 17, in part, "These crimes, like any other crime involving a victim rarely, if ever, result in the victim being made completely whole again. The crime victim’s right’s act overall does a good job in attempting to help ensure that victims are compensated for their losses, but there are too many intangibles that a victim, their family and friends, property, and in this case business, suffer that are not remedied by the law."

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