A Texas woman pleaded guilty on January 20 to stealing a $1 million winning scratch-off lottery ticket from her cousin and claiming more than $500,000 in a lump-sum payout in November 2020.
Iris Amador Argueta, 34, of Houston, Texas, pleaded guilty before Judge Howard Sturim to one count of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree (a C felony). She is expected to be sentenced to 1-1/3 years to 4 years in prison on March 15, 2023.
The Glen Cove Police Department and Nassau County DA’s Office conducted a joint investigation into this matter. They found that, on October 28, 2020, the victim purchased a New York State Lottery $5 Hold ‘Em Poker “scratch-off” ticket at a 7-Eleven located at 194 Glen Street in Glen Cove. When he scratched the ticket, it revealed a $1,000,000 jackpot prize. The victim contacted Argueta and asked her to claim the prize on his behalf because he wished to remain anonymous. The victim promised Argueta $50,000 in exchange for claiming the prize and the defendant agreed.
The defendant, who lived in Virginia at the time of the crime, drove to New York and received the winning ticket from the victim. Because of COVID-19 precautions, the New York State Gaming Commission was not accepting winning tickets in person, and instead, on November 13, 2020, the defendant mailed the winning ticket to the agency.
Weeks later, the defendant appeared at the victim’s residence with paperwork purporting to be from the New York State Lottery, which indicated that the prize amount was only $20,000. The defendant also handed the victim an envelope containing $13,436 in cash and told him that the rest of the money was kept for taxes.
According to the investigation, an internet search later revealed a press release on the NYS Lottery website that indicated Argueta had claimed the $1,000,000 prize from the ticket purchased in Glen Cove. The release further indicated that the defendant received the lump-sum payout of $537,440 after taxes. Having learned of the press release, the victim called the defendant who insisted that she did not have any additional money for the victim and that, if he continued to contact her, he would suffer legal consequences.
The joint investigation determined that the defendant received $537,440 from the NYS Gaming Commission as the lump-sum prize. In May 2022, the defendant forfeited $317,857.13 in winnings from her bank account, which were returned to the victim.
“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 District Attorney Anne Donnelly. “But her greedy actions also spelled the end of her luck, and now she will serve time in prison for her crime.”
“When the victim initially reported that his cousin had stolen his $1 million scratch-off ticket, it seemed farfetched that a relative could be so deceitful,” said Detective Lieutenant John Nagle of the Glen Cove Police Department. “When the collaborative effort between the Glen Cove Detective Division and the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office proved the victim’s allegations to be true, the defendant was arrested, and a majority of the $537,440 lump sum prize money was located and returned to the victim. The worst part of the crime was the fact that it was perpetrated by the victim’s own cousin.”