Family crook is caught red-handed
By Kate Northrop
Authorities arrested a Texas woman Monday after she stole a $1 million winning lottery ticket from her cousin in New York, tricking him with forged paperwork.
Iris Amador Argueta, 32, of Houston, misled her New York cousin to believe that she would cash in the winnings on his behalf so he could remain anonymous.
According to Nassau County prosecutors, she also forged lottery documents to convince her relative that he had only won a small fraction of the big prize.
Last October, the lucky winner hailing from Long Island purchased a $5 New York Lottery "Hold 'Em Poker" scratch-off ticket at a 7-Eleven in Glen Cove. That one ticket turned out to be a $1 million winner.
Prosecutors said that he reached out to Argueta and asked her to claim the prize for him in exchange for $50,000 to protect his identity. New York does not allow individual lottery winners to claim winnings anonymously, although some winners have hidden their identities from the public by claiming under LLCs.
She then drove to New York to retrieve the ticket from her cousin and filed a mail-in claim due to COVID-19 precautions.
Weeks after the handoff, Argueta returned to the original winner and gave him a forged note that showed he had only won $20,000. She also presented him with $13,436 in cash, saying that the state took the rest in taxes.
"The defendant exploited her cousin's trust, allegedly lying and manipulating him with the aim of pocketing the lion's share of his $1 million winning lottery ticket for herself," Acting DA Joyce Smith said.
The amount she gave him, however, conflicted with the press release that the Lottery had published to announce Argueta's supposed win, which stated that she took a $537,440 lump sum payout.
When her cousin confronted her about the blatant lie, prosecutors said, she responded by threatening him with legal action if he continued to contact her.
The empty threat did not make it very far. Nassau County officials announced that they already recovered over half the stolen prize money from Argueta.
"Thanks to a great working partnership with the Glen Cove Police Department, we've recovered more than $300,000 in allegedly stolen funds and will vigorously prosecute this case," Smith proclaimed.
Argueta was arraigned Tuesday on felony charges of grand larceny and possession of forged documents. She also faces 15 years in prison.