In 2007, a Jacksonville, Fla., police detective, Elizabeth Sutherland, was eating lunch at a Red Lobster when a waitress handed her a note written on the back of a receipt: “Lunch on me, Dante Sumlar. Mrs. Sutherland, have a nice day.” When she looked around, the man was gone.
She knew the name, though. Now retired, Sutherland investigated fraud for the sheriff department for 16 years. “As long as I’ve been in the Economics Crime Unit I’ve been dealing with Dante Sumlar,” she recalled. “He’s been doing counterfeiting as long as I can remember.” At the time he scribbled the lunch note, Sumlar was wanted for orchestrating fake check-cashing scams in three states, stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars, much of it from government accounts.
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Eric Dexheimer is part of the Statesman’s investigative team focusing on government accountability. In previous stories he has written about how the IRS ignored rampant fraud, analyzed the link between Travis County’s gun deaths and mental health, and revealed how local governments have profited from illegal gambling.
Texas Lottery Prize Payment account by the numbers
- $622,103.40: Difference between what the Texas Lottery Commission thought it had in the bank account and what it could actually account for.
- $96,971.28: Value of “unauthorized transactions” that occurred against the account.
- $50,906: Amount of money the agency had to write off as bad debt because it didn’t catch fake checks in time due to poor oversight of the account.
- $16,011: Amount of money attributable to Dante Sumlar’s fake check scheme.