LOS ANGELES, JUNE 9 -- More than 200 people who had been told they were winners in a lottery drawing turned up to collect their money only to find their prize was free accommodations: in the local jail.
"You're a big winner," police said one man was told at the Friday sting. "Have you any plans for tonight?" When he replied no, the jovial questioner said, "Don't worry, we'll take care of that."
The man, a probation violator, was led inside a building where, instead of the winnings he anticipated, he was awarded a pair of Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department handcuffs, firmly strapped around his wrists.
He was one of more than 500 people wanted by the department for various crimes who had failed to show up for their day in court.
The police lured 200 of the wanted people by mailing them letters saying they were big winners in a market survey company's test program for the California state lottery, and saying they could collect their cash prizes by turning up at a certain location Friday.
The "sting" operation went so well that some of the victims still wanted to know after their arrests if they could collect their winnings, a sheriff's deputy said.