SARASOTA (FOX 13) - Sam Shehaded sells a lot of lucky scratch-off tickets at his Shell Gas Station off Fruitville Road in Sarasota, but last week he ran into a bit of bad luck.
"I look at my scratch-off case and I noticed it was empty. The day before, I filled it up," he said.
After checking the sales records, he discovered $2,400 worth of tickets was missing.
"I couldn't believe it," he said.
But he said the real shock came when he looked at the surveillance video and spotted one of his employees.
"She was taking the scratch-off tickets, which is the top line. This is the $20 to $25 tickets," said Shehaded. "She was taking them one at a time, scratching the bottom of it -- the bar code -- and scan it. If it wins, she takes the money and put it in her pocket. If it doesn't win, she throws it in the trash.”
The cameras show her scratching away for six straight hours. At times, she even appears to ignore customers. Winning tickets were rung up and losers were trashed.
An arrest has not been made yet, but the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office says they are investigating. Shehaded turned in the same footage of his employee to investigators.
"She says, ‘Yes, I have a problem. I have an addiction with the scratch-off,’" said Shehaded.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Eddy Regnier says gambling addiction is a serious thing.
"Gamblers tend to want to work in the area that they have a problem with," he said.
Just like drugs or alcohol, Dr. Regnier said, it can take over a person's life.
"The promise of that reward becomes so dominant, that's all that you think about. All day, all night," he continued.
Dr. Reigner said addicts can only hide it for so long before it takes over their lives, catching those around them completely off guard.
"I never thought she would do such a thing," Shehaded added.