Woman Faces Up To 4 Years In Prison After Stealing $1 Million NY Lottery Scratch-Off

Written By Matt Boecker on February 1, 2023

If you ever hit it big in the New York Lottery, be weary of who you trust with the winning ticket.

A woman recently pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree grand larceny for allegedly stealing her cousin’s $1 million winning lottery ticket.

As a result, according to the Nassau County District Attorney, the woman faces up to four years in prison.

‘Greedy actions’ spelled doom for thief of NY Lottery ticket

In 2020, a man won the $1 million jackpot off a $5 Hold ‘Em Poker scratch-off. To remain anonymous, he asked his cousin, Iris Amador Argueta, to cash in the prize for him. The cousin offered Argueta $50,000 to do so.

Argueta proceeded to claim the winning scratch-off with the New York Lottery and opted to take the one-time lump sum payment of $537,000, according to a press release from lottery officials.

She then told her cousin that after taxes, the prize money only amounted to $20,000. So Argueta gave the cousin $13,436 in cash.

However, in 2021, the cousin found a New York State Lottery press release detailing how much money his scratch off actually cashed in for. So he contacted Argueta, who claimed the press release was false. She said if he contacted her again he “would suffer legal consequences,” according to the district attorney’s office.

In November 2021, Argueta was arrested. Then in May, she returned $317,857 from her bank account back to her cousin. The district attorney’s office said Argueta is expected to receive up to four years in prison for her actions.

“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,” Anne T. Donnelly, district attorney for Nassau County, said in a press release.

“But her greedy actions also spelled the end of her luck, and now she will serve time in prison for her crime.”

What to do if you hit it big with the New York Lottery

While fortunate that the original ticketholder recouped most of the winnings, this could have been avoided. Here’s what the lotto winner could have done instead of relying on Argueta to handle his prize.

A winning ticket worth $601 or less can be redeemed at any New York Lottery retailer. Simply hand over the slip to the cashier and you’ll be paid out right there.

Any prize above that amount must be cashed in at a lottery claims center. Before heading over, be sure to make an appointment via the New York Lottery website.

If you’re looking to claim winnings north of $250,000, only four claim centers can pay you out:

  • Buffalo: 165 Genesee St.
  • Fishkill: 18 Westage Business Center, Hudson Valley Towne Center, Ste 6
  • Long Island: 45 South Service Road
  • Syracuse: 620 Erie Blvd. West

If you’d like to avoid going to a claim center, you’ve got one other option. Winners can mail their winning ticket to the NY Lottery directly in Schenectady.

Be sure to include in the envelope your winning ticket, a filled out claim form, a valid government issued ID and a valid Social Security Number or FEIN.

Photo by Shutterstock / PlayNY
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Matt Boecker

Born in Oak Lawn, Illinois, Matt graduated from Northern Illinois University, where he covered NIU hockey for the Northern Star. Since then, Matt has specialized in NFL and NBA coverage for various websites and podcasts before shifting gears to casino and sports betting coverage.

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