SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Two brothers from central New York who claimed a $5 million lottery ticket sold at their family's store have been accused of scamming the winning ticket from a customer.
Andy Ashkar, 34, and Nayel Ashkar, 36, are charged with second-degree attempted grand larceny and fourth-degree conspiracy. Andy Ashkar also was charged with first-degree criminal possession of stolen property, Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick said Tuesday.
Fitzpatrick said the legitimate purchaser is a 49-year-old married father of two who came forward after suspicious lottery security officials trying to find the true winner told the story of the brothers' win to a Syracuse newspaper last month.
He had been fooled into giving up the winning scratch-off ticket when he went to cash it at the market in October 2006.
"He wasn't thinking clearly at the time," Fitzpatrick said of winner's initial reading of the ticket. "He says to a buddy he won $5,000. The friend says, 'No, I think you won $5 million,' and he says, 'No, it couldn't be.' "
When he went to the Ashkar family's Green Ale market to cash in, Andy Ashkar took advantage of the confusion to say he'd won $5,000 and successfully offered the winner $4,000 in cash to avoid taxes and other complications, the prosecutor said.
Andy Ashkar claimed in March that he bought the ticket at his parents' convenience store in Syracuse in 2006, decided to share it with his brother and delayed claiming the prize until shortly before it would have expired because he didn't want it to influence his engagement and subsequent marriage, according the state lottery division's original account.
In fact, Fitzpatrick said, the lottery had doubts about the Ashkars' story, in part because they asked if they could take a lesser amount in exchange for the lottery foregoing the usual news conference held for big winners.