A 34-year-old woman pleaded guilty to second-degree grand larceny in Nassau County, New York, after admitting to stealing her cousin’s $1 million jackpot won from a scratch-off ticket.
Iris Amador Argueta’s cousin asked her to claim the prize on his behalf because he wanted to remain anonymous; he offered her $50,000 of the winnings. Instead, Argueta pocketed most of the money. She now faces up to four years in prison.
Nassau County district attorney’s office announced the plea deal in a press release on Friday, Jan. 20. Argueta, who now lives in Houston, was asked by her cousin to claim a jackpot prize won from a $5 Hold ’Em Poker scratch-off ticket on Oct. 28, 2020. He purchased the ticket from a 7-Eleven convenience store in Glen Cove, New York.
Argueta lived in Virginia then but agreed to claim the prize on her cousin’s behalf and drove to New York. Glen Cove is a city that sits on the north shore of Long Island, New York, making for a roughly eight-and-a-half-hour drive from Virginia.
The New York Gaming Commission wasn’t accepting winning tickets in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so Argueta instead mailed the ticket on Nov. 13, 2020, to the commission’s office. She reportedly opted to receive a lump-sum payout of $537,440, after taxes, on the $1 million winnings.
A few weeks later, Argueta reportedly gave her cousin a forged letter from New York’s gaming commission office — with the letter stating the cousin only won $20,000. Argueta told her cousin the payout was $13,436 after taxes and gave him that amount in an envelope.
The cousin became suspicious, so decided to do some research and found a press release on the New York Lottery’s website saying Argueta claimed the $1 million prize and received the lump-sum payout.
The district attorney stated the cousin confronted Argueta, and she said that she didn’t have any additional money and that if he continued to reach out to her, she would take legal action.
The cousin responded by simply calling the police.
“Once the alleged crime was brought to the attention of the Glen Cove Police Department, an investigation immediately commenced. Glen Cove Detective Eddy Linares worked tirelessly with the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office investigating the allegations and gathering evidence,” said Lt. John Nagle of the Glen Cove Police Department. “As a result of the joint investigation, the suspect was subsequently located and arrested.”
In May 2022, Argueta’s bank account was frozen, and $317,825.46 were seized from the account. She is expected to be sentenced to between 16 and 48 months. According to DailyMail.com, the woman was also ordered to repay the balance of $206,147. However, Argueta told the court that she did not have the full sum to repay.
“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,” said Nassau County DA Anne Donnelly in a statement. “But her greedy actions also spelled the end of her luck, and now she will serve time in prison for her crime.”