MINEOLA, NY (WPIX) – A woman has pleaded guilty to claiming her cousin’s $1 million winnings from a scratch-off ticket, a New York district attorney announced Friday. Iris Amador Argueta of Houston, Texas, pleaded guilty to grand larceny in the second degree. The district attorney said the 34-year-old faces between a year and four months to four years in prison.
“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,” Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly said. “But her greedy actions also spelled the end of her luck, and now she will serve time in prison for her crime.”
The victim bought the $5 Hold ‘Em Poker scratch-off on Oct. 28, 2020, at a 7-Eleven in Glen Cove. After playing the ticket, Donnelly said he saw he had won a $1 million jackpot prize. However, the victim wanted to stay anonymous – which you can’t do in New York – so he asked Argueta to claim the prize, offering her $50,000.
Donnelly said Argueta drove to New York from her Virginia home to get the winning ticket. Because of COVID protocols, the New York State Gaming Commission wasn’t allowing tickets to be claimed in person. Instead, investigators determined Argueta opted to mail in the winning ticket. Later on, Argueta allegedly showed her cousin false paperwork from the New York State Lottery that said his ticket won only $20,000. Argueta then gave him an envelope with a little over $13,000 in cash, claiming the rest was kept for taxes.
The investigation showed that the victim saw a new release on the NYS Lottery’s website that said Arugeta claimed the jackpot and received the lump-sum payout of $537,440 after taxes. When the victim called Argueta, she allegedly said there wasn’t any other money. According to the DA, Arugeta also told her cousin that she would take legal action if he kept reaching out.
An investigation showed Argueta did get the lump sum from the NYS Gaming Commission, according to the DA. A page in Argueta’s name appears to have been taken down from the New York Lottery’s winner stories tab. In May 2022, Argueta had to return $317,857.13 in winnings from her bank account to her cousin. She is scheduled to be sentenced in March. “The worst part of the crime,” Detective Lieutenant John Nagle of the Glen Cove Police Department said, “was the fact that it was perpetrated by the victim’s own cousin.”