A Scottish fraudster who used counterfeit lottery tickets to buy a house worth £148,000 has been jailed for 21 months. James O’Brien, 36, from Glasgow, admitted to forging National Lottery scratchcards and claiming prizes from various shops. He also confessed to using the money to purchase a property in Ayrshire in 2019.
The scam that fooled shopkeepers
O’Brien’s scam involved altering the barcodes of genuine scratchcards and printing them on fake ones. He then scratched off the panels to reveal winning numbers and presented them to unsuspecting shopkeepers. He claimed prizes ranging from £100 to £10,000 from different outlets across Scotland.
According to the prosecutor, O’Brien used a sophisticated method to create the fake tickets. He scanned the original barcodes, edited them using a computer program, and printed them on adhesive labels. He then stuck them over the barcodes of losing scratchcards and cut them to size.
He also used a mobile app to check the validity of the barcodes before attempting to cash them in. He targeted shops that were busy or had inexperienced staff, and sometimes wore a disguise to avoid detection.
The house that was bought with fraud
O’Brien’s scam came to light when he used his ill-gotten gains to buy a house in Kilwinning, North Ayrshire, in July 2019. He paid £148,000 for the property, which he registered in his partner’s name. He also spent £9,000 on furniture and appliances.
However, his luck ran out when the National Lottery operator, Camelot, noticed a spike in the number of high-value scratchcard claims in Scotland. They launched an investigation and traced the fake tickets back to O’Brien. They also alerted the police, who raided his house and seized his computer, printer, and mobile phone.
The police found evidence of O’Brien’s scam, including images of altered barcodes, fake scratchcards, and receipts from shops. They also discovered that he had a previous conviction for a similar offence in 2014, when he was given a community payback order.
The sentence that was handed down by the court
O’Brien pleaded guilty to two charges of fraud and one charge of using a false instrument at the High Court in Glasgow. His lawyer said that he was “deeply ashamed” of his actions and that he had a gambling addiction. He also said that O’Brien had sold the house and repaid £143,000 to Camelot.
The judge, Lord Mulholland, said that O’Brien had committed a “sophisticated and planned fraud” that had caused “significant loss” to Camelot and “stress and inconvenience” to the shopkeepers. He also said that O’Brien had shown “no regard for the law” and had “abused the trust” of the public.
He sentenced O’Brien to 21 months in prison and ordered him to pay back the remaining £5,000 to Camelot. He also banned him from buying or selling lottery tickets for five years.