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Lottery ticket wins man a trip to jail

He was one lottery winner whose luck ran out. Investigators say Martin T. Montfort hit it big when he scratched off a winning $10,000 ticket recently. The ticket was stolen, however, and investigators think Montfort was the one who stole it.

Hillsborough sheriff's officials have charged Montfort, 26, with burglary and grand theft. He is accused of breaking into the Circle K convenience store, 1202 E Skipper Road, on Oct. 24 and stealing 728 scratch-off lottery tickets.

Montfort hit it big on one ticket and asked an acquaintance to take the winner to lottery headquarters in Tallahassee and cash it in, according to a Sheriff's Office report.

"(Montfort) said, "You go up and claim it, and we'll split it,"' said sheriff's Capt. Roger Dixon.

The identity of Montfort's acquaintance was not released because he is part of a continuing investigation.

Each lottery ticket is equipped with up to six tracking devices, including a serial number that traces where the ticket was sold _ or stolen.

"They're not like cash or six packs of beer (where) you can't tell one from another," said Florida Lottery spokesman Ed George. "Lottery tickets, that's very hot evidence."

Montfort's acquaintance was detained when he tried to cash the winning ticket at lottery headquarters Friday. Officials said they agreed not to press charges against the person because he cooperated and led them to Montfort.

When Montfort, who lives at 111 Belcher Lane, was arrested Saturday, he was carrying 31 of the stolen tickets.

Although his bail at Hillsborough County Jail was set at $8,500, he was released Monday morning on his own recognizance.

George said he thinks the word is getting out that stolen lottery tickets don't yield a good return.

"We've had armed robberies where the clerk says, "Do you want some lottery tickets?"' he said. "And they say, "No, I don't want them. Don't give them to me."'