A Rockland prosecutor today told a jury that an illegal immigrant's $3 million lottery dream was foiled by three conspiring men, while their lawyers contended the Spring Valley man created a nightmare for their clients with falsehoods to back out of contracts to share the winnings.
The jury listened to opening statements at the start of a trial for Hickory Street store clerk Atif Ali, 28, of Spring Valley, store owner Riaz Khan, 45, and Mubeen Ashraf, 23, both of Monroe.
They are charged with first-degree grand larceny, accused of cheating Elfido DeLaRoca out of winnings from a $10 scratch-off lottery ticket bought at a store on Hickory Street in Spring Valley.
Prosecutor Anthony Dellicarri told the jurors the three men preyed on DeLaRoca's fear of being deported and separated from his 2-year-old daughter.
The three men saw a chance to get rich off of DeLaRoca's good fortune from a $10 scratch-off ticket on Feb. 3, 2011, after a 16-hour work day of shoveling snow and chipping ice, Dellicarri said.
"These three men stole Elfido DeLaRoca's dream," Dellicarri said, referring to the New York State Lottery advertising campaign of "a dollar and a dream."
Dellicarri said the winnings were the Guatemalan man's ticket to a better way of life for himself, his fiancee and daughter. The ticket brings $2.4 million after taxes.
"They tell him he can't cash the lottery ticket," Dellicarri said. "They told him they don't give money to people who are illegal. They are going to deport you."
DeLaRoca, 45, a barber by trade, agreed to give them 5 percent of the winnings after talking with Ali, who is accused of being the mastermind . They took Delaroca to the lottery office in Fishkill to sign the paperwork and Ali signed the ticket and became the beneficiary.
A couple of days later Ali opened an account at Provident Bank, where close to $500,000 from the winning ticket was later deposited, Dellicarri said.
Ali took a $150,000 first payment, since the winnings would be paid out at $150,00 a year for 20 years. The men then got four advance payments of $400,00 from a finance company on the lottery winnings and deposited the money.
Dellicarri said DeLaRoca never saw a cent of the money and retained a lawyer six months later after being put off by the three men before going to the police and District Attorney's Office.
Attorneys for the defendants told the jury DeLaRoca conned their clients to get the money, and after signing two contracts to share the winnings, he conjured up a story to back out of the deal.
For some reason, they said, DeLaRoca didn't want his name attached to publicity of winning so much money, possibly for fear of retribution of kidnapping of family members back on Guatemala.
The lawyers argued the proof will show that a lottery investigator repeatedly told DeLaRoca in Spanish that he would not be reported to immigration officials or deported.
Attorney John Finnegan, representing Ashraf, told the jury DeLaRoca was told he would get the money. The investigator tried to convince DeLaRoca to not make any agreements with the three men, he said.
They argued DeLaRoca has lived in the U.S. for 17 years and has had contact with the police previously and knew he wasn't getting deported, but may have needed help cashing the winning checks since he lacked a Social Security number and a bank account.
"The proof will show, Mr. Delaroca misled everyone, including the District Attorney's Office," lawyer Ben Ostrer said.
Ostrer said Khan wasn't even in the U.S. when the contract was signed and never received any money. He said the investigators ignored every potential lead that raised questions about DeLaRoca's claims.
Stuart Rosenwasser, representing Ali, accused prosecutors of abusing their authority in bringing the case. He said state lottery officials oversaw the transfer of the winning ticket to Ali.
The proof will show, Rosenwasser said, that "$10 and a dream for Mr. DeLaRoca became a nightmare for Mr. Ali," who didn't ask to get involved with the lottery ticket and DeLaRoca.