Big Winners

What would you do if you won a lottery jackpot?

Everyone has pondered that at some point in their lives, but some people have lived it again and again.

They are among the most prolific lottery winners in Connecticut.

The NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters obtained data for every winning CT Lottery ticket of a thousand dollars or more from New Year’s Day 2009 through mid-March 2014.

We analyzed the numbers to see who’s winning most often and which stores sell the most winning tickets.

The location with the highest number of these high stakes tickets cashed is Crossroads Cards and Gifts on Connecticut Avenue in Norwalk. The records show 304 tickets have been cashed at the retail store.

Crossroads Cards and Gifts is one of four high-tier claim centers in the state. Lottery winners can cash out any ticket up to $5,000 at any of the four locations or at lottery headquarters in Rocky Hill.

Upen Shah, who has owned the store with his wife for over two decades, credits a combination of being a high tier claim center and good customer service with their success.

“We try to really understand the games,” said Shah, who offers every online and scratch ticket game the CT Lottery offers. “So we have knowledge when we’re trying to inform how much they win and lose. I think our honesty keeps them coming back.”

Nine of the 10 retailers with the highest number of high stakes tickets sold are in New Haven or Fairfield County.

Two of the locations, M&M Pawn Shop and Check Cashing on Howe Street in New Haven and Stop and Go Food Mart on Park Avenue in Bloomfield, crack the top 10 largely based on the winnings of just two people.

Michael Criscio, Jr., who owns the New Haven location, has won over $1 million from at least 264 winning tickets. The part-time boxing promoter says he no longer plays, despite his incredible success over the last five years.

His game of choice was Play 4. His secret? Birthdates.

““My son’s birthday came out. My wife’s came out. My mother in laws came birthday came out. The kid who worked for me mothers’ birthday hit,” said Criscio. “It just came out bang, bang, bang right in a row.”

Criscio says he has stopped playing the games. Our records show his last winning ticket for more than $1000 was cashed in January.

“Don’t be a sucker,” Criscio said, when asked for any advice he would give to those who wish to have the luck he’s had. “Don’t do it. It gets addicting quick.”

At Stop and Go Food Mart in Bloomfield, Robert Akuoko, a local business man, has won half of the high stakes tickets sold. The records indicate he has won nearly $600,000 from 148 tickets of $1,000 or more in the last five years.

Akuoko refused to comment when approached by the Troubleshooters, but employees at the store say he plays almost every single day.

CT Lottery spokesperson Diane Patterson says the majority of winning tickets cashed are for less than $1,000. She adds that $1.1 billion in lottery tickets were sold in Connecticut in 2013.

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