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NY brothers' $5 million lottery theft trial enters second day

New York LotteryNew York Lottery: NY brothers' $5 million lottery theft trial enters second day
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The trial of two brothers accused of trying to claim $5 million in winnings off a stolen lottery ticket started Monday at 1:00 pm in Onondaga County Court, in Syracuse, New York.

(See Non-jury trial expected next week for lottery-thieving brothersLottery Post, Apr. 19, 2013.)

Andy Ashkar, 34, is accused of stealing a winning ticket from customer Robert Miles at The Green Ale Market on East Fayette Street in Syracuse on Oct. 27, 2006. Prosecutors say Ashkar told Miles the "Extravaganza" ticket was worth $5,000 and gave him $4,000. He is accused of keeping $1,000 for the store, which his father owns. He is charged with conspiracy and criminal possession of stolen property.

Ashkar's brother, Nayel, 36, is accused of conspiring to help his brother claim the winnings six years later. The brothers are expected to waive their right to a jury when the courtroom opens at 1 p.m. Then, Judge Joseph Fahey will decide the facts of the case during the trial.

Assistant District Attorney Beth Van Doren is prosecuting the case. Defense attorney Robert Durr is representing Andy Ashkar and Robert Tisdell is representing Nayel Ashkar.

The brother's father, Nayef Ashkar, who is also charged with conspiracy, has a separate trial date scheduled in September.

Following is a series of updates on the progress of the trial.

Monday, 2:20 p.m. Witness testimony is under way during the trial of Andy and Nayel Ashkar, two brothers accused of trying to claim $5 million from a stolen lottery ticket. On the stand now is Joan China, who is a clerk in the prize payment unit of the state lottery office.

The brothers are wearing matching black suits, with about a dozen friends and family watching in the courtroom. The brothers' father, Nayef, is present.

In Beth Van Doren's possession is what has been labeled as "exhibit number one," the disputed "Extravaganza" scratch-off lottery ticket worth $5 million.

After the courtroom opened, Judge Joseph Fahey handed waiver forms to the defendants, who have opted to have a bench trial rather than a jury trial. Prosecutor Beth Van Doren then made her opening statement.

"I want to make it clear from the onset, what this case is not about," she said. "We are not here today because the defendants waited over five years to cash a winning $5 million ticket. Waiting that amount of time is the legal right....Of the rightful owner."

Van Doren said the case was about the "falsehoods and deceit" that surrounded the brothers' claim. She said those suspicions led to an investigation by state lottery officials, a "planted" press release and the eventual finding of Robert Miles, whom the prosecution contends is the rightful ticket owner.

Defense attorney Robert Durr, who is representing Andy Ashkar, said in his opening that there are "major inconsistencies" from prosecutorial witnesses as to "what exactly occurred that day. What time it occurred."

Defense attorney Robert Tisdell, who represents Nayel, said the people had no evidence his client committed any crime.

"If in fact, one accepts their (the prosecution's) fairy tale...where did you hear anything to prove that Nayel—if Andy is to have done anything—what proof do they have that Nayel knew anything about it? There's no statement from Nayel Ashkar, that he was in the store, or saw anything. That he ever had a conversation with Robert Miles.

"Bottom line: where's the proof?"

Monday, 2:45 p.m. Nayel Ashkar asked if he could have a reduced prize amount in exchange for anonymity when he and and his brother tried to claim a winning scratch-off ticket worth $5 million in March of 2012, a principal clerk in the prize payment unit of the state lottery office said today in court.

Joan China testified that her encounter with the brothers in March was "off."

"I had never seen claimants come in before that weren't happy," she testified. "Usually they're excited, jumping up and down, crying. It's a life changing event. I did not get that from them at all."

Monday, 3:35 p.m. Richard Dettor, an accountant, was the second witness called to the stand.

He said he met with Andy Ashkar in 2009 to discuss "what the taxes would be" on $5 million in lottery winnings that Ashkar said he had won but hadn't cashed in. He met later with Nayel Ashkar, and they discussed how to split the ticket, he testified.

"I asked him why he didn't cash it in," he testified.

Prosecutor Beth Van Doren asked if Dettor advised Andy Ashkar that he was losing money by keeping the ticket in a safe deposit box. Dettor said interest rates were low, so he didn't know if Ashkar was losing much money by holding onto the ticket.

Dettor said Andy Ashkar told him he waited to cash the ticket because was worried for his safety, the safety of his family, and possible backlash regarding the convenience store his father owns where the ticket was purchased.

Monday, 4:20 p.m. Testimony from an attorney who worked with the Ashkar brothers in their attempt to claim $5 million from the state lottery office was halted at 4:10 p.m. and will resume in the morning.

Lawyer Robert O'Leary, who sent sworn statements to lottery officials giving reasons why Andy Ashkar waited six years to cash a winning scratch-off ticket, was the third witness on the stand today.

He said Andy Ashkar was worried that the convenience store his parents owned would become a "target for robbery" if people learned he hit the jackpot. He said the store was in a "high crime area" and he did not want to "jeopardize the safety of his family members."

He also said he waited to cash the ticket because his wife had recently immigrated to the United States from Israel, and he "needed to know the marriage was based upon a strong foundation."

Ashkar told O'Leary he had read about people who had won the lottery only to have their lives fall apart and said he was "not eager to complicate" his own. He said he considered the ticket "money in the bank," and kept it in a safety deposit box until it was closer to the expiration date to make his claim.

Tuesday, 10:10 a.m. The trial resumed this morning shortly after 9 a.m. Andy Ashkar, dressed in a black suit, was seated next to his brother, Nayel Ashkar, in gray. The brothers' father and a few other family members were watching from the back of the courtroom.

Lawyer Robert O'Leary was called back on the stand first for cross-examination by the defense. He was asked about his representation of the brothers when they tried to claim winnings from the state lottery office in 2012.

O'Leary said he prepared several affidavits on behalf of the brothers and then submitted them to lottery officials to satisfy questions they had after launching an investigation into the brothers' claim.

Defense attorney Robert Durr, who is representing Andy Ashkar, asked O'Leary if he had an ethical obligation to not knowingly prepare false documents. He said he did.

"I explained to the Ashkars they were putting certain balls into motion with our proceedings," he said. "They assured me on more than one occasion what they told me was the truth."

Next on the stand was Kevin Vanderwal, who is a senior attorney with the state lottery office.

Tuesday, 10:30 a.m. A senior attorney with the state lottery said he found it unusual when two brothers walked into his office in Schenectady saying they wanted to present a $5 million claim to him.

"It is unusual because as an attorney, nobody presents a claim to me," said Kent Vanderwal, testifying this morning during the trial of Andy and Nayel Ashkar. "Usually, they present them at a customer service center. They had no appointment...Also, there was a blizzard that morning."

Vanderwal said he had spoken with an attorney representing the claimants in February of 2012, a month before they came to his office.

"They were very concerned about remaining anonymous, avoiding a press conference," he said.

He also said he received a call from one of the claimants, who asked if he could take less prize money in order to skip the press conference. Vanderwal said claimants frequently ask if they can skip the news conference, but the lottery requires one of nearly all jackpot winners, he said. The lottery holds press conferences to ensure players of the integrity of the game and as a last step to verify the veracity of claims, he said.

Asked by prosecutor Beth Van Doren if the investigation into the Ashkars' claim was heightened because a family member owned the store where the winning scratch-off ticket was purchased, Vanderwal said yes.

"The vast majority of our retailers are very honest, trustworthy people," he said.

He added, though, that people have general fears about presenting winning tickets to retailers. He said gamers worry retailers may see the winning ticket, call it a loser and later claim the prize for themselves.

In essence, that is what Andy Ashkar is accused of doing to Robert Miles in 2006.

Judge Joseph Fahey has called a recess in order to go through his regular calendar.

Tuesday, 12:10 p.m. Defense attorney Robert Durr asked lottery lawyer Kent Vanderwal if he had ever heard about another persons's claim to a winning $5 million lottery ticket before it was brought into his office in March of 2012 by Andy and Nayel Ashkar.

He said that he hadn't.

Vanderwal said he found the brothers' claim suspicious because their father owns the convenience store where it was sold and because Nayel Ashkar was adamant about avoiding a press conference, even asking if he could accept a lesser amount in exchange for anonymity.

"You don't feel concern for family safety is cause to be emotional or adamant?" Durr asked.

"The concern itself was not suspicious," said Vanderwal. "I ...didn't feel I was being told the whole truth."

Asked if the lottery had concluded that the relationship between Andy Ashkar and his father, Nayef, was improper in regards to the claim, Vanderwal said his office had not.

"We have not come to any conclusion or made any determination regarding this prize claim," he said.

Judge Joseph Fahey ordered a break for lunch around 12:10 p.m., and the courtroom will re-open at 1:15 p.m.

Tuesday, 2:30 p.m. For nearly an hour, defense attorney Robert Tisdell hammered lottery lawyer Kent Vanderwal over why the lottery didn't investigate Robert Miles after he claimed that a $5 million winning scratch-off lottery ticket was stolen from him by Andy Ashkar.

Tisdell is representing Nayel Ashkar, who is charged with conspiracy for allegedly helping his brother scheme to claim the winnings.

Miles came forward with his claim after the lottery sent out a news release in 2012 announcing Andy and Nayel Ashkar as jackpot lottery winners.

Tisdell said the lottery sent out a fake news release to "smoke out" another claimant because they were suspicious of the Ashkars.

Vanderwal bristled against Tisdell's characterizations of the news release, and most of his other questions. Tisdell asked Vanderwal several times to reduce his answers to a "yes or no" format, but the two continued to talk over one another until cross-examination ended around 2:30 p.m.

Judge Joseph Fahey called for a quick recess before the next witness takes the stand.

Tuesday, 3:30 p.m. An investigator with the state lottery testified that Andy Ashkar couldn't remember the day, month, season or year when he allegedly won $5 million from a scratch-off lottery ticket at his father's convenience store.

The investigator, Jay Hemlock, said he questioned both brothers on March 1, 2012, after they came to the lottery office in Schenectady to claim a prize.

He said it wasn't usual procedure to question winners on the spot, but he had received warning from lottery counsel that suspicious claimants were expected to come forward before the ticket expired.

"I spent a good amount of time trying to elicit more specific information-- the time of day the ticket was allegedly purchased and scratched," said Hemlock. "I asked if it was cold out, hot out, if he had a jacket on, was it raining, snowing. I pretty much got 'I don't know' as the answer."

Hemlock said lottery records showed that the "Extravanganza" book in question was activated at The Green Ale Market in Syracuse on Oct. 26, 2006. He said a $5 million winner was validated at the store the following day.

Prosecutor Beth Van Doren asked Hemlock if the lottery decided, after his investigation, to award the $5 million to the Ashkars.

"It was more of a round table discussion," said Hemlock. "It was a mutual decision that there were enough things that we were suspicious of that we would not be paying the ticket promptly, if at all."

After Van Doren's questions, Judge Joseph Fahey recessed court until tomorrow morning. Hemlock is expected back first thing for cross-examination by the defense.

Post-Standard, Lottery Post Staff

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20 comments. Last comment 4 years ago by jamella724.
Page 1 of 2
gocart1's avatar - lighthouse
ONEONTA,NEW YORK
United States
Member #30516
January 17, 2006
419 Posts
Offline
Posted: April 23, 2013, 5:03 pm - IP Logged

Hangem at high noon

    Avatar
    ASS END OF SPACE
    Azerbaijan
    Member #139316
    February 19, 2013
    147 Posts
    Offline
    Posted: April 23, 2013, 5:20 pm - IP Logged

    I absolutely love the way this article is written.

    Please please continue.....

    This is better than a Harry Potter movie.

    I'm sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for the next episode of "The Suspicious Brothers."

    Striving For Perfection!!

    Reaching For Success!!

      beaudad's avatar - animaniacs26
      Mid Atlantic States
      United States
      Member #60043
      April 3, 2008
      1422 Posts
      Offline
      Posted: April 23, 2013, 6:16 pm - IP Logged

      The next thing that will happen is that they blacked out and fell on the floor.

      When they woke up a ticket was in their hand.

      They don't know how it got there, they couldn't remember their name, and that the "lottery-fairy" could have put it in their

      hands..........

      and the best thing to do was to take the ticket and put it in a safety deposit box

      because they were in a thieveing neighborhood and didn't want someone to steal it from the rightfull thieves....

      Ya Know....the best way to get rich.... in America...Is to put in a "party-store".......rip people off on their lottery

      tickets....because after all it is "the families store"...........and take the money to another country.......how do

      some people sleep.....................

      " I don't have a gambling problem,  I have a problem winning!"


        United States
        Member #124493
        March 14, 2012
        7023 Posts
        Offline
        Posted: April 24, 2013, 4:02 am - IP Logged

        Eek Boy that was a lot of reading!!  The narrative was very real written, and it seemed as if the author was actually in the courtroom!

        Yes 5 million in a safety deposit box is very suspicious.

        Even investing 1 million in a conservative stock, would have a better return.

        The only thing missing from this story is somebody getting some hemlock in their favorite meal.

        Also i may be wrong, but is not ashkar arabic or something?

        How often do arabs marry israelis?

        I found some pictures of the brothers here.  I cant really tell if they are Israelis.

        http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/lottery-brothers-resented-questioned-article-1.1324973?localLinksEnabled=false

          helpmewin's avatar - dandy
          u$a
          United States
          Member #106665
          February 22, 2011
          19740 Posts
          Offline
          Posted: April 24, 2013, 8:05 am - IP Logged

          keep us postedI Agree!

          Let it Snow Snowman

            Hallfamily8's avatar - tails
            New Member
            MD
            United States
            Member #139479
            February 24, 2013
            21 Posts
            Offline
            Posted: April 24, 2013, 8:36 am - IP Logged

            I agree! Very well written indeed.. I will be keeping up with this article

              rdgrnr's avatar - walt
              Way back up in them dadgum hills, son!
              United States
              Member #73904
              April 28, 2009
              14903 Posts
              Offline
              Posted: April 24, 2013, 11:57 am - IP Logged

              Eek Boy that was a lot of reading!!  The narrative was very real written, and it seemed as if the author was actually in the courtroom!

              Yes 5 million in a safety deposit box is very suspicious.

              Even investing 1 million in a conservative stock, would have a better return.

              The only thing missing from this story is somebody getting some hemlock in their favorite meal.

              Also i may be wrong, but is not ashkar arabic or something?

              How often do arabs marry israelis?

              I found some pictures of the brothers here.  I cant really tell if they are Israelis.

              http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/lottery-brothers-resented-questioned-article-1.1324973?localLinksEnabled=false

              "How often do arabs marry israelis? I found some pictures of the brothers here.  I cant really tell if they are Israelis."

              You're not aware that a large portion of the Israeli population is Palestinian?

              I thought you'd be well-versed on the Mid-East and the Holy-Land in general by the way you attack Christianity all the time.

              I assumed you had a reason for it other than it being a popular, cool and hip thing to do on the Left.

              Oh well, at least you're cool with the low-information crowd.


                                                           
                                   
                                                       

               

               

               

               

                                                                                                                 

              "The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing"

                                                                                                          --Edmund Burke

               

               


                United States
                Member #116268
                September 7, 2011
                20244 Posts
                Offline
                Posted: April 24, 2013, 12:05 pm - IP Logged

                Eek Boy that was a lot of reading!!  The narrative was very real written, and it seemed as if the author was actually in the courtroom!

                Yes 5 million in a safety deposit box is very suspicious.

                Even investing 1 million in a conservative stock, would have a better return.

                The only thing missing from this story is somebody getting some hemlock in their favorite meal.

                Also i may be wrong, but is not ashkar arabic or something?

                How often do arabs marry israelis?

                I found some pictures of the brothers here.  I cant really tell if they are Israelis.

                http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/lottery-brothers-resented-questioned-article-1.1324973?localLinksEnabled=false

                Nice photo LottoBoner, they look like nice boys. Im sure they just need a spanking and they will be fine.


                  United States
                  Member #116268
                  September 7, 2011
                  20244 Posts
                  Offline
                  Posted: April 24, 2013, 12:10 pm - IP Logged

                    United States
                    Member #124493
                    March 14, 2012
                    7023 Posts
                    Offline
                    Posted: April 24, 2013, 2:06 pm - IP Logged

                    "How often do arabs marry israelis? I found some pictures of the brothers here.  I cant really tell if they are Israelis."

                    You're not aware that a large portion of the Israeli population is Palestinian?

                    I thought you'd be well-versed on the Mid-East and the Holy-Land in general by the way you attack Christianity all the time.

                    I assumed you had a reason for it other than it being a popular, cool and hip thing to do on the Left.

                    Oh well, at least you're cool with the low-information crowd.

                    Good point ridge.  I just always get the impression from watching main street media (and  some internet media), that they live behind a wall, in a shanty town and that the Israel Military likes to run over their tents, and corruguted walls with bulldozers.

                    With that type of indoctrination, I just thought it odd that a palestinian would marry an israeli. 

                    According to the story the brother did not say, I was waiting for my wife from palestine. 

                    I am sorry.  I repent once again.

                      I just cant help being a cool fool.CoolJester


                      United States
                      Member #124493
                      March 14, 2012
                      7023 Posts
                      Offline
                      Posted: April 24, 2013, 2:07 pm - IP Logged

                      Nice find ronnie.Thumbs Up

                        fwlawrence's avatar - Yavill
                        Austin
                        United States
                        Member #9378
                        December 6, 2004
                        210 Posts
                        Offline
                        Posted: April 24, 2013, 3:02 pm - IP Logged

                        Just a couple of Ashholes!

                          rdgrnr's avatar - walt
                          Way back up in them dadgum hills, son!
                          United States
                          Member #73904
                          April 28, 2009
                          14903 Posts
                          Offline
                          Posted: April 24, 2013, 3:41 pm - IP Logged

                          Good point ridge.  I just always get the impression from watching main street media (and  some internet media), that they live behind a wall, in a shanty town and that the Israel Military likes to run over their tents, and corruguted walls with bulldozers.

                          With that type of indoctrination, I just thought it odd that a palestinian would marry an israeli. 

                          According to the story the brother did not say, I was waiting for my wife from palestine. 

                          I am sorry.  I repent once again.

                            I just cant help being a cool fool.CoolJester

                          "I just always get the impression from watching main street media (and  some internet media), that they live behind a wall, in a shanty town and that the Israel Military likes to run over their tents, and corruguted walls with bulldozers."

                          What your mainstream media doesn't show you is the other side where they set off bombs in crowded shopping areas and pizza joints and buses filled with students and women and children and routinely launch rockets into residential areas like Sderot. The Boston bombings were child's play compared to what the Israelis deal with on a daily basis from those people.


                            United States
                            Member #124493
                            March 14, 2012
                            7023 Posts
                            Offline
                            Posted: April 24, 2013, 3:57 pm - IP Logged

                            "I just always get the impression from watching main street media (and  some internet media), that they live behind a wall, in a shanty town and that the Israel Military likes to run over their tents, and corruguted walls with bulldozers."

                            What your mainstream media doesn't show you is the other side where they set off bombs in crowded shopping areas and pizza joints and buses filled with students and women and children and routinely launch rockets into residential areas like Sderot. The Boston bombings were child's play compared to what the Israelis deal with on a daily basis from those people.

                            Is this where you go on your anti-muslim rant? Is it really as simple as us and them?

                            I would think a religious christ loving man such as yourself would understand that all men are just small parcels of the same supersoul, regardless of what Idol or prophet or divine saviour you choose to believe.

                            The mainstream media shows plenty of bombs.

                            Its called lets fear the sheeple into katowing to the MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX.

                            "Those People"?  Now whos showing their low information, ignorant prejudices.