Indian convenience store clerks, owner in Florida arrested for grand theft

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NEW YORK — Pina Patel and Vishnubhai Patel, clerk and owner of BP Jiffy Food Mart at 3350 SE 52nd in St. Ocala, Florida, were arrested on charges of grand theft, and solicitation and conspiracy by Florida Lottery officials on May 2.

According to the Florida Lottery, Division of Security, a state official went undercover as a customer and told the clerk, Pina Patel, to check if he had a winning ticket.

Patel checked it and reassured him that his ticket was a winner but told him that it was worth $10 when it was actually worth $599.

She then showed it to Vishnubhai Patel, the owner, and then tried to sell the undercover official a $5 scratch ticket instead to which he denied and left.  Lottery officials arrived right after and arrested the two.

According to the arrest report, state officials found the ticket in the garbage box where the Patels said they kept all of the tickets.  The report also mentioned that Pina Patel had told state officials that she “made a mistake,” and Vishnubhai Patel told them he knew that the ticket was valid and that the clerk was going to keep it and then put it in the box himself.

They were then taken to the Marion County Jail and were released the day after on a $4,000 bond.

State officials also arrested Ahmed Keshwari, a store clerk at the Maruti Food Mart at 4201 NE Jacksonville Road, on a charge of grand theft the day before they arrested the Patels.

Authorities said that a winning ticket was given to Keshwari, who told a state official posing as a customer, that the ticket was not a winner, leading the official to leave the store.

The arrest report stated that state officials later returned to the store, searched Keshwari, found the winning ticket valued at $599 in his right front pocket and arrested him.  He was released from jail Tuesday afternoon after a $2,000 bond was posted.

Nidia Tew, a spokeswoman at the Florida Lottery, told the Star-Banner that she was unable to comment on the case as it was still under investigation.  She however did say that the agency does get complaints from customers about these types of incidents in the convenience stores and such routine investigations are not unusual.