TALBOT COUNTY, Ga. (WRBL) — A former employee of a Woodland gas station is charged with four dozen theft-related charges after he may have caused a $127,954 loss for the store over the course of five years, partially through a lottery-ticket-related scam.
On Feb. 24, Talbot County deputies responded to a theft at Geo Foodmart. At the scene, deputies spoke with the owner, Georgia Joseph, who said an employee, Harish Bhatia, was stealing from the store.
Joseph told deputies he saw Bhatia on camera place marked money from the cash register into his front pocket. Joseph also says when he sent someone into the store with winning lottery tickets, Bhatia paid the customer out in cash without scanning the tickets through the lottery machine, thereby leaving them uncounted. Those winning, uncounted tickets were hidden in Bhatai’s pants, says Talbot County Sheriff’s Office.
When searched, deputies say Bhatia was found in possession of $1,400 in marked $100 bills from the store’s register, along with unscanned and paid-out winning lottery tickets totaling up to $830.
Upon further investigation, it was determined Bhatia was taking these winning tickets to an unknown store in Columbus where he cashed them in for personal gain. Investigation confirmed Bhatia ran this scam through the entire month of February, leading to a total of $22,910.
Joseph states he believes Bhatia ran this scam for the entire five years of his employment at the store, totaling up to $127,954 lost. Joseph became aware of the alleged scam when someone left an anonymous letter at his store referencing Bhatia’s uncounted, winning lottery tickets.
Bhatia was arrested and charged with 24 counts of theft by taking and 24 counts of theft by conversion. Deputies say he may face more charges in the future.