Texan Woman Faces 15 Years in Prison for Stealing Cousin’s $1m New York Lottery Prize

  • Authorities have charged Iris Argueta, 32, for illegally cashing in a $1m winning ticket in 2020
  • The defendant allegedly lied to the victim that it only won $20k, complete with forged papers
  • The victim uncovered the ruse when the NY Lottery publicized Argueta’s cashing-in online
  • According to the DA, the defendant “exploited her cousin’s trust” by “lying and manipulating him”
  • If the top charge sticks, Argueta, due back in court Nov 23, may face five to 15 years in prison
NY lottery tickets in a shop
A woman from Houston, Texas is facing up to 15 years in prison after she was charged with illegally cashing in a family member’s $1m New York Lottery prize-winning ticket. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

A $1m Hold ‘Em Poker ticket

Iris Amador Argueta, 32, is facing up to 15 years in prison after authorities arrested and charged her for illegally cashing in her cousin’s $1m New York Lottery Hold ‘Em Poker prize-winning ticket.

The Nassau County District Attorney (NCDA) office charged Argueta on Tuesday this week, the same day she surrendered to the Glen Cove Police Department in New York.

Argueta’s cousin asked her to cash in his winning $1m scratch-off ticket

According to a joint press release from the NCDA and Glen Cove PD, Argueta’s cousin asked her to cash in his winning $1m scratch-off ticket because he wanted to remain anonymous. As a thank you for cashing the ticket, Argueta would receive a $50,000 cut.

The offender then proceeded to claim the cash for herself, lying to her family member that the ticket had won significantly less.

How did she do it?

Argueta allegedly mailed her cousin’s winning ticket — purchased for $5 at a 7-Eleven in Glen Cove in October 2020 — to the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) from her Virginia address to claim the winnings. The 32-year-old, who now lives in Houston, Texas, opted to receive the prize as a one-off lump sum payment totaling over $537,000.

Due to COVID-19 precautions in October 2020, the NYSGC would not accept winning tickets in person, which is why Argueta supposedly mailed the ticket to the gaming body on November 13, 2020.

After receiving the prize money, Argueta allegedly lied to her family member, claiming that the lottery ticket only won $20,000. Argueta even presented her cousin with forged paperwork from lottery officials detailing the winnings, according to Glen Cove PD.

The lottery thief’s ruse was up when her cousin spotted an official New York Lottery press release stating that Argueta had claimed the $1m lottery win and opted for a $500,000+ payout.

Betrayal of family trust

Despite confronting Argueta with his knowledge of the New York Lottery press release, the defendant allegedly insisted that she did not have any additional money for her cousin. If he continued to contact her, she said he would suffer legal consequences. 

two counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument

According to the official press release, Judge David Levine handed Argueta charges of one count of grand larceny in the second degree, and two counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree.

“This defendant exploited her cousin’s trust, allegedly lying and manipulating him with the aim of pocketing the lion’s share of his $1m winning lottery ticket for herself,” Acting Nassau County DA Joyce A. Smith said.

Over half the cash recovered

Glen Cove PD and the NCDA’s office said they have recovered and are holding $317,825.46 in allegedly stolen funds from Argueta’s bank account.

The DA said that if the top charge sticks, Argueta could face five to 15 years in prison. She is due back in court on November 23, 2021.

In another lottery-related crime, New York attorney Jason Kurlan was indicted in August 2020 for his role in a $107m scheme to defraud lottery winners.