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Three charged with stealing man's lotto winnings

May 8, 2013 2:39:41 PM PDT
A construction worker, who barely speaks English, thought he struck it big winning more than $700 with a winning lottery ticket.

But it turns out it wasn't $700 he won, it was actually more than $70,000.

Three suspects are charged with swindling him out of the money when he cashed the tickets in Suffolk County.

In the community of Turkish immigrants who work gas stations around Riverhead, the news spread in a flash; that after years of drudgery selling lotto tickets at this Valero station, Yalcin Nergiz and Yunis Ozturk had hit it big, a $74,000 Take 5 jackpot.

But neither spoke the best English, so they asked Yunis's older brother Orhan, who works just down the road, to cash the ticket in.

"His brother lied to him, and now he's in trouble," said Eray Cufadar, a friend.

Eray Cufadar says Orhan was thrilled to help his little brother in return for a few thousand bucks of his own.

The problem is, prosecutors say, it was all a lie. That ticket belonged to someone else.

"You know this is not stealing the money. They steal his hope. You have hope when you play Lotto, and they stealing your hope. That's not right," Cufadar said.

Now a grand jury has indicted all three men on charges related to theft and fraud.

Prosecutors say when the rightful winner, who speaks no English himself, stopped into the Valero to scan his ticket, the man behind the counter told him he'd won $774, and gave it to him in cash, but refused to provide a receipt.

"He's really mad," said Allan Patel, sold winning ticket.

It was Allan Patel who sold the winning ticket at his stationary store a few miles away.

He says the rightful owner comes in several times a week and put it together when he saw signs boasting of the prize he never received.

"He said, 'Oh, this is a rip-off. Why he did like that?'" Patel said.

Back at the Valero, the two workers have already been fired and replaced by new guys.

Longtime customers are stunned.

"Doesn't make that much money, see an opportunity to take $70,000 and took it. Not good. Now he's over there, in the jail. Probably going to get deported," a customer said.