SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Prosecutor Beth Van Doren has called 11 out of 15 potential witnesses to the stand in the Onondaga County Court trial of two brothers accused of stealing a winning $5 million lottery ticket.
The bench trial before Judge Joseph Fahey began Monday and resumes this morning. Thursday, Van Doren questioned several co-workers of Robert Miles, a maintenance worker who claims he is the real winner of the $5 million.
Miles alleges that Andy Ashkar, who is charged with criminal possession of stolen property, stole the ticket from him at The Green Ale Market in October of 2006. The winning ticket was validated on Oct. 27, 2006, according to lottery officials.
Andy and Nayel Ashkar tried to claim the winnings in March of 2012 at a state lottery office in Schenectady. They are both facing conspiracy charges, as is their father, Nayef, who has a separate trial date scheduled in September.
In court on Thursday, a maintenance supervisor at the Parkside Commons apartment complex in Syracuse testified that he saw a co-worker buy and scratch off a winning $5 million lottery ticket in October of 2006.
Ramon Rosario took the stand Thursday during the Onondaga County Court trial of two brothers accused of stealing a lottery ticket from Robert Miles.
Brothers Andy and Nayel Ashkar tried to claim the winnings at a state lottery office in Schenectady in March 2012. They are charged with conspiracy, and Andy Ashkar is charged with criminal possession of stolen property.
The brothers' father, Nayef, who owns the convenience store where the winning ticket was sold and validated, is also charged with conspiracy. He has a separate trial date scheduled for September.
Rosario was one of several of Miles' co-workers who testified about seeing Miles "jumping up and down, yelling that he had won the lottery" after he bought a scratch-off ticket at The Green Ale Market on his lunch break.
However, Rosario was the only witness called by prosecutor Beth Van Doren who said he actually saw the ticket closely enough to read its value.
Rosario said he looked at the $20 scratch-off ticket, which was an instant winner, and saw a "five comma zero zero zero comma."
Rosario said Miles thought the ticket was only worth $5,000. He said he asked to see it and told Miles it was worth more.
Another co-worker in the area that day, Ricky Pritchett, said he remembered seeing Miles jumping and down.
"He said he won $5,000," Pritchett said.
James Ratchford, another Parkside Commons employee, remembered the event differently. He testified that Miles jumped up and down and "said he won $5 million."
Former maintenance technician Desi Melendez said Miles first said he won $5 million, then became confused and only thought he won $5,000.
Melendez said he could tell Miles had gotten high on crack cocaine the night before because he was "hyper." He said Miles ran back into the store to see how much he'd actually won.
When he came back out, he told his co-workers that the store employees told him the ticket was worth $5,000, according to testimony.
Miles, who took the stand Wednesday, said he knew it was worth $5 million, but accepted $4,000 from Andy Ashkar because he wasn't feeling strong enough to "put up a tussle."
Defense attorneys asked several of the prosecution's witnesses today if they had criminal records. Miles admitted to setting fire to a car after an argument with his wife. He was charged and convicted with third-degree arson. Melendez admitted to two drug-related convictions from 2004 and a perjury charge from 1996.
In between testimony from the Parkside Commons maintenance crew, prosecutor Beth Van Doren called a lottery records keeper to the stand.
Richard Pulsifer, a lottery operations specialist, said he pulled records on the Ashkars and their store after the lottery launched an investigation into their claim.
Van Doren asked Pulsifer if The Green Ale Market ever cashed an "Extravaganza" scratch-off ticket worth $5,000. He said no.
She asked if the store had made a payout for lottery ticket winners worth more than $5,000 from October 2006 to now. He said the store had once, on June 16, 2008, but not for an "Extravaganza" ticket.
Asked how many times Andy Ashkar had won more than $1,000 on lottery games in the last six years, Pulsifer said "five."
During cross-examination, Pulsifer was asked to elaborate and noted that only two of those cases involved scratch-off tickets, and one, involving the ticket in question, is still "pending."