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Store clerks accused of taking what they thought were winning lottery tickets from their rightful owners

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(CNN) -- As if it wasn't difficult enough to win the lottery, some store clerks are accused of making it even harder. Officials caught them attempting to cheat -- taking what they thought were winning tickets out of the hands of their rightful owners.

A team of undercover lottery investigators are conducting between 300 to 600 stings ever year, called "compliance audits." The undercover investigators -- posing as customers will typically present what appear to be winning tickets to lottery clerks and ask if they have indeed won.

On occasion, clerks inform the agents their tickets are losers and turn them away. In reality, the tickets are specially produced to indicate they are winners when they are scanned at a lottery terminal. The special tickets sometimes indicate they are $5,000 winners.

Robert Adsit, a store clerk at a 7-Eleven in Colorado Springs took the bait last year. An undercover lottery operative handed over three scratch tickets. Adsit told the customer they were all losing tickets. But the next morning, he showed up at a lottery office attempting to cash one of the tickets which he thought was a $5,000 winner. Asked why he lied to the customer about the worth of the ticket, Adsit said, 'I don`t know.' He later pleaded guilty.

In Southern Colorado, Jesse Gunther, a gas station clerk, fell for the sting. Gunther failed to tell undercover lottery agents that one of their tickets appeared to be a $5,000 winner. He later tried to redeem the ticket himself and was busted. He pleaded guilty in the case.

A lottery administrator told Gunther they conduct the compliance checks 'to protect our customers to make sure they get a fair shake.'

Lottery officials say they believe 98% of retail outlets and store clerks are honest, but that a small percentage are attempting to trick customers into turning over winning tickets.

We've seen this scam in Wisconsin. In 2010, two Wisconsin convenience store clerks were caught in a sting stealing lottery tickets. They took the fake winning tickets from undercover officers -- said they were losers, and cashed them in.

One of the clerks admitted he kept the ticket because he had to pay debts.