A Houston, Texas woman pleaded guilty this week to stealing a $1 million “scratch-off” lottery ticket from her cousin and taking the lump-sum payout of $500,000 in November 2020, according to the Nassau County, New York district attorney.
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.
“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,” Donnelly said in the release. “But her greedy actions also spelled the end of her luck, and now she will serve time in prison for her crime.”
A joint investigation conducted by the Glen Cove Police Department and Donnelly’s office found that the victim, Argueta’s cousin, purchased a New York state Lottery $5 Hod ‘Em Poker scratch-off ticket at a convenience store in Glen Cove on Oct. 28, 2020. When the victim scratched the ticket off, it revealed a $1 million prize.
The DA’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 the victim’s behalf and drove to New York to receive the winnings.
At the time, though, the New York State Gaming Commission was not accepting winning tickets in person, so the Argueta mailed the ticket to the commission on Nov. 13, 202 instead.
Within weeks, Argueta reportedly went to deliver the NYS Lottery paperwork to her cousin, which said the price winnings totaled $20,000. Along with the paperwork, she handed her cousin an envelope with $13,436 in cash, and said the rest was held for taxes.
The victim found a press release from the NYS Lottery website saying Argueta claimed the $1 million prize and received a lump-sum payout of $537,440 after taxes, the DA’s office said.
The DA added that the victim called Argueta, who said she did not have any more money and if continued to call her, she would take legal action.
In May 2022, Argueta forfeited $317,857.13 in winnings from her bank account, which were returned to the victim.