Woman Charged with Stealing $1M from Cousin’s Bingo Ticket

The phrase blood is thicker than water was put to a test in the case of Iris Amador Argueta, a 32-year-old resident of Houston, Texas, who has been charged with grand larceny after allegedly stealing a $1 million lottery ticket from her Long Island-based cousin.

Argueta was named in a joint press release by the Glen Cove Police Department and Nassau County’s District Attorney Office. The victim purchased the ticket from a 7-Eleven store in Glen Cove back in Long Island and found out that he had won $1 million of the scratcher.

Seeking to remain anonymous in the matter, the man turned to his cousin, Argueta, hoping that she would agree to cash out the winnings in exchange for $50,000 in cash. Argueta did and drove from Virginia, where she lived at the time, to Long Island and picked up the ticket.

However, she was not able to approach the New York Gaming Commission in person as all in-person ticket collections were prohibited, so on November 13, 2020, she mailed the ticket, waiting to collect the prize.

Argueta Claims Prize Payout Was Mistaken

Eventually, Argueta traveled back to her cousin, having collected the winnings. Only, it wasn’t the winnings the cousin expected to receive. Argueta delivered a letter to the plaintiff, arguing that the New York Gaming Commission had made a “mistake,” and that the actual winnings of the scratcher were $20,000.

She then gave her cousin $13,436 which she claimed was all that was left after-tax deduction. The scam would have gone through had it not been for the New York State Lottery press release announcing her as the winner of the $1 million prize, a customary process that apparently can serve in court. As it turned out, the letter was fake.

The Lottery usually allows winners to choose how to get their winnings – one option is to go after a lump sum, which is subject to serious taxation. The other is to have the lottery pay you in installments over the years. Argueta chose the former, leaving her with $537,440 after taxes.

The cousin quickly confronted Argueta who threatened to sue him. However, the anonymous plaintiff called the police. While the police have chosen to still use the term “alleged” to describe Argueta’s actions, her bank account, along with $317,825 of what authorities suspect are stolen funds, has been frozen.

If found guilty, she may face up to 15 years in prison. The plaintiff put his trust in his cousin, said Acting Nassau County DA Joyce Smith. A trust that has been betrayed, she added. Smith confirmed that over $300,000 in stolen funds have been seized.

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