A Texas woman was arrested for stealing a $1 million lottery ticket from her Long Island cousin, who gave it to her to cash so he could remain anonymous, authorities said.
Iris Amador Argueta, 32, of Houston, also forged lottery paperwork to lead her kin to believe that he had only won a small fraction of the large prize, Nassau County prosecutors said Tuesday.
The million-dollar malfeasance began when the victim bought a New York State Lottery $5 Hold ‘Em Poker “scratch-off” at a 7-Eleven in Glen Cove last October, and scratched the ticket to reveal his seven-figure haul, authorities said.
He then asked Argueta to claim the prize for him in exchange for $50,000, to protect his identity, according to a statement by prosecutors.
The suspect drove to New York to get the ticket, which she had to mail in due to COVID-19 precautions, prosecutors said.
Weeks later, she allegedly presented her cousin with the phony note from lottery officials and handed him $13,436 in cash, telling him the state took the rest in taxes. However, the state had already issued a press release championing Argueta’s million dollar jackpot, while noting she took a $537,440 lump sum payout, officials said.
When the victim confronted his cousin about the ripoff, she threatened him with legal action, prosecutors said.
Nassau County officials said they recovered more than half the stolen money from Argueta’s bank account
“This defendant exploited her cousin’s trust, allegedly lying and manipulating him with the aim of pocketing the lion’s share of his $1 million winning lottery ticket for herself,” said Acting DA Joyce Smith.
“Thanks to a great working partnership with the Glen Cove Police Department, we’ve recovered more than $300,000 in allegedly stolen funds and will vigorously prosecute this case.”
Argueta is charged with grand larceny and faces 15 years in prison.