By Marissa Perlman

MODESTO (CBS13) — Two Modesto convenience stores have been the target of smash-and-grab burglaries but the thieves are after just one thing: lottery scratchers.

The crime happens early before the store opens, and the thieves are able to cash out those scratchers before the crime is reported.

This string of burglaries is more than a smash and grab, it’s more like a smash and scratch. The burglars are making off with the quick cash and the victims are local convenience store owners.

“We are working hard, mostly all of the small convenience store owners are working 14 or 15 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Tom Dhillon, the owner at AJ’s in Modesto.

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“We are not feeling safe at night. We are worried somebody’s going to break in,” Dhillon said.

Surveillance video shows three men breaking into his store just after five a.m. last Wednesday. In less than two minutes, the glass door is smashed, the machine was broken into, the suspects stuffed the tickets in a bag before running off.

The scratchers were cashed before the California Lottery or police could flag the tickets as stolen.

“Any store down the street, they can go anywhere to cash out. The California Lottery did not block the ticket,” Dhillon said.

The suspects got away with more than $4,000. Dhillon calls this an expert job. He said the suspects timed out the break-in and cashed-in just an hour and a half later.

“This shouldn’t be happening with anybody,” Dhillon said.

But it is. Just down the street at PJ’s, another burglary happened on Sunday. It was a similar break-in that was caught on camera.

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“Somebody cut the outside bars, and broke the glass, and took my scratcher,” said owner Paramajit Singh.

Singh said this is the third time this type of break-in has happened.

“There’s no sleep after that, you know,” Singh said.

Leaders from the Lottery Commission said they want to help these stores that are targeted, but it’s up to the store to have proper security in place. The commission will normally reimburse after the first break-in, but after that, there’s no guarantee.

We’re told they “always” catch the crooks. But that’s not enough for these store owners.

“To feed our family, protect our business and protect our home,” Dhillon said.

Workers said fixing the broken windows and doors is just a temporary solution to an even bigger problem.

They are hoping one day the state will implement a system where store owners can control where and when the scratchers can be activated.

Marissa Perlman


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