He was a Guatemalan immigrant who spoke little English and had a fondness for scratch-off lottery tickets; they were two clerks at a Long Island gas station who saw an opportunity.
When the clerks scanned Marvin Choy Nij's Take 5 lottery ticket and gave him $774, congratulating him on his windfall, he never suspected the real worth of his lucky ticket: $74,892, which the clerks, Yalcin Nergiz, 41, and Yunis Ozturk, 33, promptly cashed in for themselves, the Suffolk County district attorney, Thomas J. Spota, said this week.
With Mr. Ozturk's brother, Orhan Ozturk, 47, the district attorney said, they split the profits, which came to $48,318.27 after taxes. They were due to be arraigned on Wednesday on conspiracy and grand larceny charges, but the arraignment was postponed until next Tuesday to wait for a Turkish interpreter.
The handful of Bingo and Take 5 scratch-off tickets that Mr. Nij, 28, brought into the Valero station on Peconic Avenue in Riverhead, in mid-March, did not seem like much — until his last ticket was scanned.
Although the clerks ignored his request for a receipt, Mr. Nij, a construction worker who told the police he did not speak or write English, became suspicious only when he told a clerk at the card shop where he had bought the winning ticket about his good fortune, the district attorney's office said. Surprised, the clerk told him that retail stores cannot cash tickets worth more than $600; larger amounts are redeemed by the New York Lottery.
At the same time, Mr. Nij saw a sign in the card shop's window announcing that it had recently sold a $74,892 winning ticket.
"That's when his suspicions were really confirmed," said Robert Clifford, a spokesman for the district attorney.
Orhan Ozturk's lawyer, Edward Burke Jr., said his client, a 25-year employee of another gas station, had never been in trouble with the law before. "I look forward to the court process," he said. (The other suspects' lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.)
The case came months after two brothers from the Syracuse area were arrested and accused of claiming a $5 million winning ticket that they had told the winner, a customer at their parents' convenience store, was worth only $5,000. One brother was acquitted and the other found guilty of stealing the ticket.
It is unclear whether Mr. Nij and the original winner in the Syracuse case will receive the rest of their winnings. A lottery spokesman, Lee Park, would say only that the lottery was assisting the Suffolk County investigation and reviewing the Syracuse case. Lottery rules state that claimants must be "identified to the satisfaction" of the lottery before any payment is made.