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Man Wins $3 Million Lottery but Is Tricked Out of Prize

On Feb. 3, a man walked into N&K Quick Pick in the Rockland County village of Spring Valley and purchased a $10 scratch-off instant lottery ticket. It was a $3 million winner, but it turned out to be anything but instant.

When the man, who speaks limited English, told a store clerk that he had stumbled upon a fortune, the clerk, according to the authorities, hatched a plan with the store’s owner and a third man. They told the man, an illegal immigrant working as a painter, that he would be deported if he tried to claim the winnings.

“When he presented the ticket, they scared the hell out of him,” said Thomas P. Zugibe, the Rockland County district attorney.

The three persuaded him that they would arrange for him to get some of the money if he gave the ticket to the clerk, Atif Ali according to Mr. Zugibe, who said Mr. Ali collected the first $150,000 annual payout and sold the rights to the rest for $600,000.

After waiting several months without receiving a dime, the ticket buyer hired a lawyer, Thomas Sassone.

“They basically defrauded him,” Mr. Sassone said. He asked the New York Lottery to investigate, the district attorney was called, and over the last two weeks, Mr. Ali, of Spring Valley, N.Y.; the store owner, Riaz Khan of Monroe, N.Y.; and Mubeen Ashraf, also of Monroe, were charged with first-degree grand larceny.

The three men could not be reached for comment on Friday, and Mr. Khan sold the store in July. The arrests were reported Friday by The Journal News of White Plains.

To collect a jackpot, a winner must sign the back of the ticket to prevent others from claiming the prize, said Carolyn Hapeman, a spokeswoman for the New York Lottery. But the rightful winner of the $3 million ticket, whose name was not released, had already signed it. So Mr. Ali, according to Mr. Sassone, had the man sign a document attesting that they bought the ticket together.

Though Ms. Hapeman said lottery officials were skeptical, they authorized the first of 20 annual $150,000 payments. She noted that lottery officials do not ask for the immigration status of winners.

Mr. Ali, the authorities said, then sold the rights for the rest of the jackpot to a company called Advance Funding for $600,000.

An office manager at Advance Funding, who declined to give her name because she was not authorized to speak for the company, said it made the payment after the New York Lottery sent documents that said Mr. Ali had purchased the ticket.

Most of the money was deposited in a bank account that the authorities have now frozen. The real buyer will most likely receive that money, but it is still unclear, Mr. Zugibe said, how much of the rest of the $3 million jackpot he will get, since Advance Funding may claim it still has the rights to it.

“We’re not looking to hurt anybody,” said Mr. Sassone, the winner’s lawyer. “He just wants to get his money back and to get left alone.”

Three men are charged with telling a scratch-off lottery ticket buyer that he would be deported if he claimed the New York prize, but that they would help him collect. ]]>