A Nepalese man who stole a winning lottery ticket from his unsuspecting customer at Grand Prairie in Texas has remained successful in evading justice five years since he swindled $1 million from his American victim.
But the US authorities as well as the INTERPOL continue to hunt for the fraudster who investigators believe could be in Nepal, a local TV in Texas reports. As he has an outstanding red corner notice by the INTERPOL, Nepal Police is obliged to act should the fugitive’s whereabouts become known in his home country.
Pankaj Joshi, a student of University of Texas at the time, made headlines in 2009 when it was discovered that he fraudulently withdrew $1 million against a lottery ticket that originally belonged to a customer of Lucky Food Store where he worked as a clerk.
After taxes, he is known to have withdrawn some $750,000.
In the ensuing legal battle, the victim, Willis Willis, sued both the lottery company and the store. He was eventually awarded $395,000 which was recovered from Mr Joshi’s multiple bank accounts and his relatives, media reports said. The alleged fraudster had opened several bank accounts after he cashed the ticket in at Texas Lottery Commission in June 2009. He then left the country.
“Joshi was in transit to various countries, I assume, in an effort to return to Nepal and the last place that we are aware that he landed was Bangkok, Thailand,” Keye TV quoted Hector Gomez, Lone Star Fugitive Task Force Commander.
The retired maintenance man went to the store to have his lottery tickets checked. Mr Joshi ran his several tickets through the system and found that one of them had actually won $1 million jackpot. But he did not tell the truth to the naive customer who is now in his early 70s. Instead, he gave him $2 – the winning amount for one of several tickets Mr Willis gave to the absconding accused.
US Department of Justice says the fugitive is charged with ‘claiming lottery prize by fraud’ and ‘unlawful flight to avoid prosecution’.
If found and convicted, the Nepalese youth faces up to 20 years in the Texas Department of Corrections.
As his last known location is Bangkok, US authorities have told local media that he may well be in his native Nepal although it appears no evidence to that effect has emerged so far.
As Nepal is one of 190 member countries of the INTERPOL, Mr Joshi’s extended holidays on the money he swindled from the retired American may soon be over. That is, if he is indeed back at home as suspected by the US investigators.