A Houston, Texas woman pleaded guilty this week to stealing a $1 million “scratch” lottery ticket from her cousin and taking the $500,000 lump sum payout in November 2020, according to the Nassau County District Attorney, New York.
Nassau County District Attorney Anne T. Donnely announced the plea in a press release on Friday, saying Iris Amador Argueta, 34, pleaded guilty before Judge Howard Sturim to second-degree grand larceny.
In return, Argueta is expected to be sentenced to 16-48 months in prison on March 15, 2023.
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“This defendant thought she had hit the jackpot when she passed on her cousin’s $1 million winning ‘scratch’ ticket for her property and claimed a lump sum of more than $500,000,” Donnelly said in the release. “But her greedy actions also meant the end of her happiness, and now she will serve a prison sentence for her crime.”
A joint investigation by the Glen Cove Police Department and Donnelly’s office revealed that on October 28, 2020, the victim, Argueta’s cousin, purchased a $5 Hod ‘Em Poker scratch card from a convenience store in Glen Cove. When the victim scratched off the ticket, it revealed a $1 million prize.
The district attorney’s office said the victim asked Argueta to claim the prize on his behalf to remain anonymous, promising $50,000 of the prize.
Argueta, who lived in Virginia at the time, agreed to claim the prize on behalf of the victim and drove to New York to collect the winnings.
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At that time, however, the New York State Gaming Commission was not personally accepting winning tickets, so the Argueta sent the ticket to the commission on November 13, 2020.
Within weeks, Argueta reportedly went to deliver the NYS Lottery paperwork to her cousin, who said the prize winnings totaled $20,000. Along with the paperwork, she handed her cousin an envelope containing $13,436 in cash, saying the rest was withheld for taxes.
The victim found a press release from the NYS Lottery website that said Argueta claimed the $1 million prize and received an after-tax lump sum of $537,440, the district attorney’s office said.
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The prosecutor added that the victim called Argueta, who said she had run out of money and would take legal action if she continued to call her.
In May 2022, Argueta forfeited $317,857.13 in winnings from her bank account, which was refunded to the victim.