DCI arrest man in Vermillion for forgery

A man who arrived in Vermillion intending to take a chance on deceiving a local business and its video lottery machine ended up losing in a big way last week.

Agents from the South Dakota Department of Criminal Investigation, with assistance from officers of the Vermillion Police Department, arrested Travis Law at approximately 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 27.

Law is alleged to have played a video lottery machine at a Vermillion establishment and after winning a very small amount of money, left the premises with the ticket.

He then returned later in the day to cash in the ticket. The dollar amount on the paper he presented had apparently been forged to increase its value.

Chief Matt Betzen of the Vermillion Police Department said the owner of the local business contacted law enforcement after noticing the Law's suspicious behavior and appearance.

Earlier this month, video lottery machine owners in southeastern South Dakota had reported being duped by a man who had turned in forged tickets.

"Some information had been sent out to local businesses that there was a gentleman that was using a wig and other stuff to hide his appearance," Betzen said. "What he was doing was cashing out lottery tickets, getting small wins, and then taking them and forging them into larger wins and then bringing them back a few hours later."

The Vermillion business reported Law's suspicious behavior last Wednesday. "He was wearing a white wig, and had won 5 cents, but didn't cash it out, and had left," the chief said. "The Vermillion Police Department along with some DCI agents staked out the business and about three hours later, the guy came back with a $50 winning ticket which was clearly forged."

Law was arrested, and Betzen said the DCI is continuing its investigation. "There are a variety of victims throughout southeast South Dakota," he said. "We did serve search warrants, and we found a bunch of stuff that indicates he had been perpetrating this type of scheme a lot, and they (the DCI) are putting together a case against him."

Betzen contacted the Plain Talk Tuesday morning with additional information. "He (Law) has been charged by the DCI for forgery, petty theft second degree, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia."

Law's bond hearing is scheduled for today (Friday) at the Clay County Courthouse.

Betzen said Law is apparently from Iowa. "He is not from Vermillion," he said. "Our detectives worked closely with the DCI, and the DCI took over the case."

The man had been in the Clay County Jail in Vermillion as of Friday. Betzen was not certain Tuesday morning if he was still being held in the county jail.

A pair of Yankton businesses reported Monday, June 20, that they had given money to a male suspect and later discovered the "winning" video lottery ticket was, in fact, a fake.

Betzen said it is likely that Law may also responsible for the Yankton thefts.

"It very well may be the same individual," he said, adding that having the word spread among video lottery machine owners concerning the man's suspicious behavior aided in his capture.

"He met the M.O. (method of operation) and the owner of the business called us," Betzen said.

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