Texas woman charged with stealing cousin’s $1M lottery prize

Iris Argueta allegedly pocketed Long Island relative’s winnings after he asked her to cash in ticket so he could remain anonymous.

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purple scratch-off lottery ticket
A “Hold ‘Em Poker” scratch-off ticket from the New York Lottery
(New York Lottery)

A lottery win is no guarantee of a smooth ride.

Take Michael Todd Hill, now languishing behind a set of North Carolina bars on a murder charge after scooping a cool $10 million. Or hapless Michigan native Gregory Jarvis who drowned before collecting his prize.

This week we learned that another unexpected windfall has ripped apart a bond of kinship and put a Texas woman within touching distance of a serious spell in the slammer.

Iris Argueta, 32, has been arrested for pocketing her Long Island cousin’s lottery winnings after he gave her the $1 million ticket to cash so he could remain anonymous, authorities said.

The Houston resident is also accused of forging paperwork to dupe her relative into thinking he had won only a small fraction of the prize, according to a joint press release from the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office and the Glen Cove Police Department.

Argueta’s cousin hit the jackpot last October thanks to a $5 “Hold ‘Em Poker” scratch-off ticket bought in Glen Cove, New York.

Seeking to protect his identity, he then asked Argueta to claim the prize for him in exchange for $50,000, according to prosecutors.

Argueta, who lived in Virginia at the time, drove to New York to collect the ticket before mailing it in to claim the prize.

The suspect chose to receive the prize as a one-time lump sum payout of $537,440, according to a New York State Lottery press release from December 2020.

But she told her cousin the amount won after tax was a mere $20,000, handing him an envelope with $13,436 and a falsified note from lottery officials, prosecutors allege.

The victim contacted police after seeing the lottery press release detailing the actual sum claimed.

“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,” said Acting Nassau District Attorney Joyce A. Smith.

Argueta surrendered herself to police on Monday and was charged with grand larceny and criminal possession of a forged instrument.

She is due back in court on November 23 and faces up to 15 years in prison.

Police said they had recovered more than $317,000 of the allegedly stolen funds from Argueta’s bank account.

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