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Lottery investigator testifies she urged illegal immigrant to keep, sign $3M ticket

Sep 29, 2012, 8:46 am

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New York Lottery

Testimony continued on Friday in a trial over a $3 million New York lottery ticket.

(See Opening statements in $3M NY lottery ticket trial, Lottery Post, Sep. 20, 2012.)

A New York State Lottery Commission investigator testified Friday that she urged an illegal immigrant living in Spring Valley to keep his signature on a $3 million scratch-off ticket rather than let someone else take ownership.

When Elfido DeLaRoca, 45, of Spring Valley came back to her five months later in July 2011 saying he had not received any of the winnings from A to Z delicatessen store clerk Atif Ali, 28, who signed the ticket and became the sole beneficiary in the eyes of the state, investigator Lillian Lanza said she told him, "I told you so."

DeLaRoca eventually took Lanza's advice, retained an attorney and complained to the Spring Valley police and Rockland prosecutors that his winnings were stolen. His complaint is being brought against Ali, store owner Riaz Khan, 45, and employee Mubeen Ashraf, 24. Each face first-degree larceny charges.

DeLaRoca, a barber with a 2-year-old daughter, bought the winning $10 ticket at the Hickory Street store on Feb. 3, 2011. A day later, the three men took him to the lottery office in Fishkill, where the non-English-speaking DeLaRoca signed an agreement turning the ticket over to Ali.

Because of the amount of money involved, Lanza was assigned to investigate to ensure DeLaRoca willingly turned over the ticket. She testified she eventually allowed Ali's claim to go through, despite her suspicions, when they provided a signed agreement and DeLaRoca initially told her he agreed.

Lanza said DeLaRoca told her he didn't want his name publicized and attached to the winning ticket because "he fears for his family back home." She said he told her that he trusted Ali and believed Ali would keep his word and pay him his share.

DeLaRoca, who doesn't speak, read or write English, testified that the three men coerced him into signing over the ticket by threatening he would be deported if he collected the money and never see his daughter again. He also said they threatened to report him to federal immigration officials. He claimed he agreed to give them 5 percent, not the 50 percent contained in a contract written in English.

He also testified the three men told him what to tell Lanza over the telephone in February when they were at Ashraf's house.

The defense attorneys have questioned DeLaRoca's motives and truthfulness, contending he used the three men because he didn't want his name publicized. They claim he is using the prosecution to back out of the financial deal with the three men.

DeLaRoca said when he testified that he showed lottery officials a Guatemalan passport as identification when he allowed Ali to sign the ticket. He also said no one threatened to deport him at the lottery office.

He said he's only received $1,300 cash in two payments from Ali. DeLaRoca also testified that he received $520 a month in worker's compensation from 1999 until three months ago, making extra money as a barber, first in Spring Valley and now in Queens.

Close to $500,000 of the winnings from the scratch-off ticket are being held in an account under Ali's name with Provident Bank in Spring Valley.

Ali deposited the first $150,000 payment in March 2011 and then received about $400,000 from a finance company on four future $150,000 payments from the lottery. The $3 million jackpot is paid out over 20 annualized payments.

Lanza testified Friday that she told DeLaRoca in February 2011 the state would tax his winnings but he would not lose the money or get deported for living in the United States illegally. She said she advised DeLaRoca to sign the ticket to protect his share, telling him these partnerships can go bad when one person gives up his rights.

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