People who win millions of dollars in the lottery often find long-lost friends stopping by, but a Long Island woman who recently hit for $5 million found herself suddenly popular with Nassau County detectives.
The woman, Lydia Moore, 54, a health care worker from Glen Cove, won $5 million last month playing "Livin' Large" the New York Lottery's new instant scratch-off game.
She appeared at an Oct. 28 ceremony on Long Island, where a state lottery official introduced her and another winner as "our newest millionaires" to a throng of reporters and photographers. Ms. Moore was the first "Livin' Large" winner, and the photograph of her smiling and holding an oversize lottery check made the evening news broadcasts and the morning papers.
That caught the attention of Nassau County police detectives, who had identified Ms. Moore, a home attendant, as a suspect in the theft of $113,000 from her employer, an ailing 87-year-old Long Island man.
Police detectives arrested Ms. Moore last Thursday night at her home in Glen Cove, police said. She was arraigned on Friday on second-degree grand larceny charges in Hempstead District Court, said Katie M. Grilli-Robles, a spokeswoman for the Nassau County district attorney, Denis Dillon.
Ms. Grilli-Robles said that prosecutors would also be "looking into whether this could have occurred with other people she worked for."
A lawyer for Ms. Moore, James E. Toner, of Mineola, said yesterday that Ms. Moore had been freed on $25,000 bail and that she "vehemently denies the charges and looks forward to an opportunity in court to address the allegations."
His client, he said, had worked diligently seven days a week for the Long Island man since she was hired in 2000. Neither Mr. Toner nor Ms. Grilli-Robles would identify the man for whom Ms. Moore worked.
Mr. Toner would not comment on the charges, but called the timing of the arrest "very curious."
"The detectives had all the information they needed back in February to make an arrest," he said. "It's no coincidence that they decided to do it a week after she goes public with winning the lottery.''
A profile of Ms. Moore on the New York Lottery's Web site said she was a mother of two and a grandmother of three and planned to spend some of the money she had won to buy her "dream house" in Glen Cove.
Jennifer Mauer, a spokeswoman for the New York Lottery, said she requested yesterday that Ms. Moore's profile be taken off the site.
In a statement, police officials said that between January 2003 and February 2004, Ms. Moore wrote checks to herself from her employer's bank accounts. She then used a stamp with the man's signature to sign the checks, which totaled $113,165, the statement said. Police officials said they had a call from a niece of the man, who said she had detected something amiss with his accounts.
Ms. Moore bought the winning ticket on Oct. 12 at the Bayville Candy Store in Bayville, and walked outside to scratch it, the store owner, Tony Chuu, 58, said yesterday. He said Ms. Moore often bought lottery tickets from him on her way to the elderly man's house in nearby Centre Island.
"She ran back in the shop and said, 'I won big money,' " he recalled. "I said, 'How big? 500? 1,000?' And she said, 'Up.' I said, 'Uh-oh, it's the jackpot.' "
Ms. Mauer said that Ms. Moore elected to take her payout over 20 years, and that she and her husband, Claude, would each receive $125,000 a year before taxes. She received her first installment at the ceremony on Oct. 28.
Asked about Ms. Moore, Mr. Chuu said, "As long as they don't owe me money, all my customers are good people." If convicted, Ms. Moore could face up to 15 years in jail. It was unclear yesterday whether a conviction would jeopardize her winnings. "There is no legal theory I'm aware of that allows the prize to be forfeited because of this," Mr. Toner said.
Ms. Mauer said, "She's only been accused, so we don't have the authority to take action."
She added, "We have to follow whatever the court orders."
At the Oct. 28 news conference, Ms. Moore and her husband declined to speak to reporters.
"They were both very quiet; they kept to themselves," recalled Vincent Cosentino, the other lottery winner at the ceremony. Mr. Cosentino, from Elmont, won a $9 million Lotto jackpot.