A Houston, Texas lottery winner has pleaded guilty to second-degree grand larceny, after admitting stealing the $1M winning ticket from her cousin.
Iris Amador Argueta, 32, was initially given the scratch-off ticket to cash by the real winner, according to prosecutors. He wanted to remain anonymous, which is not currently an option in New York State. Argueta agreed to take a $50,000 cut for handling the money.
The winning ticket was a $5 Hold ’Em Poker scratch-off, purchased at a 7-Eleven store in Glen Cove, Long Island, where the cousin lived. At the time, Argueta was living in Virginia, and she drove to Long Island to pick it up.
This was November 2020, and because of COVID-19 measures in place at the time, the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) would not accept winning tickets in person, so she mailed it to the commission.
Several weeks later, Argueta went to see her cousin with a letter she claimed was from the NYSGC. The letter said there had been a mistake and the prize was only $20,000. But it was faked. She handed her cousin an envelope containing $13,436, which she said was all that was left after tax deductions.
Ironically, Argueta’s scheme was sunk by the very same NYSGC policy she attempted to exploit in the first place – the lack of anonymity surrounding large lottery wins.
Smelling a rat, Argueta’s cousin visited the New York State Lottery website, which showed she took a lump-sum payout of $537,440 after taxes. After he confronted his cousin and she refused to give him more money, he called the police.
“This defendant thought she hit the jackpot when she passed off her cousin’s $1 million winning ‘scratch-off’ ticket as her own and claimed a lump sum payout of more than $500,000,” said Nassau County DA Anne Donnelly in a statement. “But her greedy actions also spelled the end of her luck, and now she will serve time in prison for her crime.”
Argueta will face between 15 months and four years in prison when she is sentenced March 15. She has also been ordered to pay $317,857.13 in winnings from her bank account to her cousin, who got to remain anonymous after all.
The DA’s Office told The Daily Mail that a judgment order for the outstanding of $206,147 will be made at her sentencing hearing. During her plea hearing, she told the court she did not have the full sum.
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