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Texas woman accused of pocketing cousin's $1 million lottery win

Iris Amador Argueta, who is charged with grand larceny, is accused of giving her cousin only $13,436 from a $537,440 payout.

A Texas woman who is charged with grand larceny pocketed winnings from a $1 million jackpot lottery ticket her cousin bought last year in New York for $5, authorities alleged.

The woman, Iris Amador Argueta, 32, of Houston, surrendered Monday to Glen Cove police on Long Island, Joyce A. Smith, the acting district attorney in Nassau County, said in a statement.

Argueta was arraigned Tuesday on a count of second-degree grand larceny and two counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, Smith said.

The alleged victim, whom officials did not name, had asked Argueta to claim the winning prize for him because he wished to remain anonymous, prosecutors said. They said Argueta's cousin promised her $50,000 in exchange for Argueta’s claiming the prize money.

Argueta, however, kept the majority of a lump-sum payout totaling $537,440, prosecutors said.

“This 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,” Smith said in the statement. “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.” 

Argueta could be imprisoned for five to 15 years if she is convicted on the grand larceny charge, prosecutors said.

A lawyer listed as representing Argueta in New York court records did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday. Argueta also could not be reached.

Smith said Argueta’s cousin bought the $5 Hold ’Em Poker ticket, which netted him the jackpot on Oct. 28, 2020, at a 7-Eleven in Glen Cove.

After she struck the deal with her cousin, Argueta drove to New York from Virginia, where she lived at the time, prosecutors said. At the time, the New York State Gaming Commission was not accepting winning tickets in person because of Covid-19, prosecutors said. Argueta mailed the winning ticket to the gaming commission on Nov. 13, 2020, prosecutors said.

Weeks later, prosecutors said, Argueta showed the victim purported paperwork from the New York State Lottery that said the prize money was only $20,000. Argueta then handed the victim an envelope with $13,436 in cash and told him the rest of the money had been kept for taxes, authorities alleged.

But a statement that was issued on the state’s lottery website said Argueta had claimed a $1 million prize and received the lump-sum payout of more than $537,000 after taxes, prosecutors said.

The statement led Argueta’s cousin to call her, but she insisted that she didn’t have more money for him and said that if he continued to reach out, he would suffer legal consequences, prosecutors said.

Investigators have recovered $317,825.46 of the alleged stolen winnings from Argueta’s bank account. The money is being held, prosecutors said.