Charges that a trio of men scammed an immigrant worker out of a $3 million lottery prize in Rockland County have ended with one of the men pleading guilty to petty larceny and charges being dismissed against the other two.
As a result of the prosecution, cash from the lottery prize will begin flowing to the victim, according to Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe.
Atif Ali, 30, of 264 N. Main St., Spring Valley, and two others were tried in connection with the scam, but a jury deadlocked in the case. As the result of an agreement, Ali has pleaded guilty to petty larceny, a misdemeanor.
Zubige said that on Feb. 3, 2011, the victim, an immigrant worker, purchased several scratch-off lottery tickets at a Village of Spring Valley convenience store, in which Ali worked as a clerk.
One of scratch-off games purchased by the victim, “$3,000,000 Richer,” carried $3,000,000 in cash winnings. As a jackpot winner, the victim was set to receive 20 annual payments of $150,000.
But before the victim left the store, Ali contacted his friends, Riaz Khan and Mubeen Ashraf, both of Monroe, NY. Khan is the owner of the convenience store.
Ali, Khan and Ashraf persuaded the victim that cashing the winning ticket would jeopardize his immigration status, leading New York State Lottery officials to invalidate his winning game and push for his deportation. Zugibe said that Ali later presented himself to the New York State Lottery as the owner of the winning ticket and received an initial payment totaling $150,000.
Four more payments, advanced through a funding company, were deposited directly into Ali’s bank account in June 2011. The three men received more $500,000 in ill-gotten lottery winnings, leaving the victim who purchased the ticket with nothing, Zugibe said.
Ali, Khan and Ashraf were charged following an investigation conducted by the Rockland County Special Investigations Unit and members of the Spring Valley Police Department. As a result, the $520,000 in winnings was frozen in the bank due to the forfeiture action brought by the District Attorney’s Office.
The case went to trial in September 2012, ending with a deadlocked jury and the judge declaring a mistrial. The three defendants had been scheduled to face a retrial this month, but Zugibe said that after talks between prosecutors, the attorneys for the defendants and the victim, an agreement was reached to settle both the criminal case against the three defendants, as well as the civil forfeiture action the District Attorney’s Office had commenced in Rockland County Supreme Court.
As part of the plea agreement, Ali was sentenced to time-served after having spent four months in the Rockland County Correctional Facility in New City. He also agreed to give up any claim to the remaining 15 annual payments to be made by the New York State Lottery on the winning ticket.
The victim will receive more than $218,000 in cash that had been held in the Ali's bank account. The charges against Ashraf and Khan were dismissed.