You may know him best from his feature on NBC Dateline, How to Catch a Predator, but on Tuesday a 17 News viewer snapped a picture of Chris Hansen outside a local liquor store. The newsman even wrote on his Facebook page that he "had lunch at Luigi's Italian Restaurant in Bakersfield. Amazing food, owned by a wonderful family for 100 years."
But no, Hansen wasn't in town for the good Italian food. Dateline producer said Hansen came to Bakersfield to follow-up on a sting, conducted back in April, run by agents from the law enforcement division of the lottery. Lottery police said they visited dozens of stores in the area after customers complained of Lotto violation.
For the sting operation, the California Lotto made decoy winning tickets worth $10,000 each. An undercover officer would present the decoy ticket to a store clerk, but instead of informing the customer of their winnings some clerks would pocket the ticket and tell the undercover officer that the ticket was a loser.
With Chris Hansen and Dateline cameras in tow, Lottery police said they arrested three people from two different stores in Bakersfield Tuesday. We went to Ramco Liquors in Northeast Bakersfield where Lotto officials said a store clerk was arrested. The two men behind the counter said they don't know what happened, but a customer next door saw the whole operation unfold.
"I told Chris Hansen, I'm so glad you guys are doing this to get these people from doing this," Hector Funez, witness, said.
At the All Day Market on Brundage, Lottery officials said two people were arrested including the store owner's wife, Won Kwon, the store owner said it was a miscommunication caused by a language barrier. Lotto officials said when they interviewed Kwon she spoke English just fine.
Lottery officials said sting operations are ongoing in cities throughout the state. The Bakersfield sting will appear on a future Dateline episode.