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NY maintenance worker to get $5 million jackpot after seven-year wait

A New York maintenance man is “elated” to have hit a $5 million lottery jackpot — though it took seven years, and a criminal trial to finally cash in.

New York State Lottery officials on Wednesday verified that Robert Miles of Syracuse is the rightful winner of a 2006 scratch-off jackpot after it was determined a family of convenience store workers tried to bag the winnings for themselves.

In October 2006, Miles turned the winning scratch-off lottery ticket into The Green Ale Market in Syracuse where, according to Miles’ testimony in court, Andy and Nayel Ashkar convinced him the ticket was only worth $5,000.

The brothers, sons of the store's owner, paid him $4,000 for it and kept $1,000.

Last year, the brothers tried to claim the multi-million dollar jackpot, triggering an investigation by state gaming officials and a criminal trial in Onondaga County.

Andy Ashkar, 35, who was working behind the counter at the store that day, was convicted in May of possessing the stolen ticket and received up to 25 years in prison, the Syracuse Post-Standard reported. It was determined there was not enough evidence to convict his brother, Nafel, of possession of stolen property. Both were cleared of conspiracy charges.

Their father, Nayef Ashkar, pleaded guilty to filing a false instrument and admitted he lied in a state lottery affidavit. He is expected to go to trial in September on conspiracy charges.

At trial Miles, who works a Syracuse apartment complex, testified he was addicted to crack cocaine at the time he bought the ticket and was confused by the Ashkar brother’s actions when they took it from him.

Lee Park, a New York Lottery spokesman, told NBC News that lottery officials — who had monitored the trial and conducted a security check of their own — on Wednesday completed their verification process and awarded Miles the jackpot.

Originally the $5 million Extravaganza scratch-off winnings would have been paid out as a $250,000 annuity over 20 years, lottery officials said. But the rules have changed, and Miles will have the option of receiving a lump sump payment of $3.2 million, or $2.1 million after taxes.

Miles will receive his winnings in a couple of weeks, Park said. “It’s a matter of paperwork now.”

Miles couldn’t be reached for comment, but his attorney, Steve Gamareri told the Post-Standard  that Miles was “elated the lottery prize has finally been awarded him.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.