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False info in NY lottery led to arrest in $5M scam

Associated Press Modified: November 14, 2012 at 4:47 pm •  Published: November 14, 2012

Fitzpatrick said Andy Ashkar told the man he had won $5,000 and successfully offered him $4,000 in cash to avoid taxes and other complications.

The brothers' lawyer said Wednesday they did not immediately cash in the ticket because they worried about the family's safety in the rough neighborhood if it became know they had come into money and about the potential embarrassment in their small Palestinian Muslim community from winning at gambling, a forbidden practice.

"They don't understand why this is happening," Durr said. "They think everything they did made sense in their world."

According to the state lottery division's original account, Andy Ashkar claimed in March that he bought the ticket at his parents' convenience store in Syracuse in 2006, decided to share it with his brother, and delayed claiming the prize until shortly before it would have expired because he didn't want the money to influence his engagement and subsequent marriage.

As part of the bogus story, Hapeman said last month that a routine investigation launched because Andy Ashkar bought the ticket at the family store had determined he bought the ticket legitimately.

In fact, the lottery already doubted the Ashkars' story partly because they asked if they could take a lesser amount in exchange for skipping the usual news conference held for big winners, Fitzpatrick said.

"Anytime a public agency knowingly spreads false information, it undermines the credibility of that agency and the ability of news organizations to fulfill our mission to reliably and accurately inform the public," Karen Testa, the East regional editor for The Associated Press, said Wednesday.