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Lottery ticket mix up leads to man's arrest, charges dropped in Town of Tonawanda

A Town of Tonawanda man is not happy over the arrest in which he was claimed to have stolen property. Two officers have been brought up on departmental charges.

TOWN OF TONAWANDA, N.Y. — A Town of Tonawanda man is outraged that he was arrested for possession of a stolen lottery ticket, that he says he purchased from a gas station store.

It turns out that lottery ticket was legit.

Eric Martin is his name. He’s 30 years old and is from the Town of Tonawanda. 

In July, he went into the Speedway on Kenmore Avenue to redeem a winning scratch-off ticket for $50.

Instead of getting money for the winning ticket, a store employee called police to report Martin was cashing in a stolen lottery ticket.

Martin denied that claim, saying it was valid and that he bought it the day before.

Body camera video provided by the Town of Tonawanda Police shows that when police told Martin he was under arrest, Martin refused and tensed up. Police had to restrain him.

Martin was charged with possession of stolen property and resisting arrest.

"He’s dealing with it. He was embarrassed, he was humiliated. He didn’t want to get into a police car in handcuffs in front of his wife, his nine-year old-son and his infant daughter," said attorney John Feroleto. 

Martin is also outraged that he was strip searched by police.

Police say that was done at the police station to make sure he didn’t have anything on him.

According to Town of Tonawanda Police, Speedway confirmed that the lottery ticket was indeed purchased at the store by Martin. The charges were then dropped against Martin.

Martin’s attorney says no decisions have been made about a possible lawsuit.

2 On Your Side spoke to Town of Tonawanda Police about the incident. 

REPORTER: How would you characterize the behavior and conduct of police officers responding to the speedway? 

"Just from a specific legal standpoint, we satisfied all the probable cause and legal requirements to make an arrest. We had all those things in place," said Assistant Chief of Police Nick Bado, "There was an attempt to gather information. There was confirmation from store employees that this was in fact one of the stolen lottery tickets, so that satisfied our probable cause."

Police say somehow the ticket Martin bought was flagged as stolen.

"It did ultimately turn out Eric Martin was right.  He did buy that ticket there, and when the burglary happened the roll of tickets that was partially taken, they must’ve miscalculated when they flagged the tickets and too many of the surrounding ones that were left over were also flagged as being stolen in the burglary," Bado said. "This is really embarrassing for us to have a situation that where misinformation honestly gets out and makes us look worse than it was."

Bado would not indicate that Martin escalated the incident.

"When he became unwilling to come back, that’s when the interaction became a little but more adversarial," Bado said.

A statement from the state Gaming Commission says, "All we can say is that the Commission is concerned that the Speedway clerk failed to follow standard ticket-cashing protocols. We are reviewing the incident."

The Erie County DA's Office issued a statement: "After speaking with the Town of Tonawanda Police Department, the Erie County DA’s Office requested that the court dismiss the case. Mr. Martin was not arraigned on the charges. The case was dismissed and sealed by operation of law."

Two officers have been brought up on departmental charges for COVID related arrest procedures.

2 On Your Side has reached out to Speedway for a response.  We will post their statement if we receive one. 


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