Woman pleads guilty to stealing $1 million lottery prize from her cousin

By Isa Kaufman-Geballe, CNN

A Texas woman pleaded guilty to a felony charge and is facing up to four years in prison for stealing her cousin’s $1 million New York state lottery jackpot, officials said.

Iris Amador Argueta, 34, pleaded guilty Friday to one count of second-degree grand larceny after allegedly stealing a $1 million winning scratch-off ticket from her cousin and claiming over $500,000 of his award in November 2020, according to a press release from Nassau County District Attorney’s Office.

Argueta’s cousin bought a New York State Lottery $5 Hold ‘Em Poker scratch-off ticket in October 2020 that revealed he won a $1 million jackpot prize, according to the press release.

The cousin asked Argueta to cash in the winning lottery ticket in exchange for $50,000 because he wanted to remain anonymous, the district attorney’s office said.

Argueta, who lived in Virginia at the time, drove to her cousin’s residence, took possession of the winning ticket and mailed it into the New York State Lottery to claim the winnings, according to police. She opted to receive the prize money as a one-time lump sum payment from lottery officials that totaled over $537,000, according to a press release from lottery officials in December 2020.

Argueta told her cousin that the lottery ticket only won $20,000 and gave him an envelope with $13,436, claiming the rest was taken out for taxes, according to the district attorney’s office. Argueta even presented her cousin with forged paperwork from lottery officials detailing the winnings, according to police.

Argueta’s lawyer, Lauriano Guzman, declined to comment in a phone call with CNN. The New York State Gaming Commission directed comment to the district attorney’s office.

It wasn’t until the victim came across a New York State Lottery press release that he discovered his cousin had been announced as the winner who claimed the $1 million dollar prize, and that she had received over $500,000, the district attorney’s office said.

The victim called Argueta after seeing the press release, and she insisted she had no any additional money and said he “would suffer legal consequences” if he continued to contact her, according to the district attorney’s office.

Argueta was arrested in November 2021 in Texas. In May, she forfeited $317,857 in winnings from her bank account, which was returned to her cousin, the district attorney’s office said.

Argueta “is expected to be sentenced to 1-1/3 years to 4 years in prison” on March 15, according to the district attorney’s office.

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