A woman has won nearly £430,000 on a scratchcard, but her ticket was allegedly stolen after she asked a tobacco shop owner to verify the win.
It happened in Naples, Italy, on Friday – with police launching a manhunt for the 57-year-old suspect after the alleged theft.
Italian media report that a woman in her 60s bought two scratch cards in a shop and, after scratching one of them, she realised she had won the top prize of 500,000 Euros.
The incredulous winner asked an employee to verify the win, but then the worker asked Gaetano Scutellaro – whose wife is the owner of the tobacco shop – to double-check the winning ticket.
However he allegedly ran away on his motor scooter and never came back.
A manhunt was launched that night, with Carabinieri – an Italian police force with a military statute – trying to find him.
But up to this point Mr Scutellaro, who had been reported for theft by the woman just moments after the incident, has been nowhere to be found.
To prevent anyone from illegally cashing in the win, the Italian tax office – which manages scratch cards in the country – froze the entire block of tickets sold in the tobacco shop.
Yesterday, two days after the incident, the suspect was stopped by police at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport as he tried to board a flight to Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands.
When officers found him, the tobacconist did not have the winning scratch card with him, Italian news agency Ansa reports.
Mr Scutellaro – who did not have any previous convictions – has been reported for theft but has not been arrested, meaning he could leave the country without any restrictions.
After being stopped at the airport, the suspect told police the winning ticket was in a bank in the city of Latina – about two hours from Naples.
The man insisted that the scratch card actually belongs to him and that he has opened a new bank account, asking for the prize to be credited to him.
However, since the ticket has been blocked, nobody will be able to cash in the money until investigators close the case.
The suspect, who denies stealing the winning ticket, even said he wants to report the elderly woman for libel.
Following the incident, the man could suffer the revocation of his shop’s license by the Customs and Monopolies Agency.
His wife, who is the legal owner of the shop, will also need to prove that she was not involved in the incident for the business to be able to reopen, Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reports.
Meanwhile, the scratch card has not been found yet and inquiries are continuing.