Two Central New York brothers accused of a major lottery scam, Andy and Nayel Ashkar, were arraigned in Onondaga County Court Wednesday.
Andy, 34, the brother who allegedly sold the winning ticket, was arraigned on Criminal Possession in the first degree.
Nayel, 36, was arraigned on Attempted Grand Larceny in the first degree.
Both pleaded not guilty.
Bail has been set at $25,000 cash, or $50,000 bond. The brothers must also surrender their passports.
The prosecution also requested and received a 6 month order of protection for the alleged victim. Assistant District Attorney Beth Van Doren and the judge did not name the man they believe is the real winner in open court. Van Doren said they wanted to protect him from unwanted attention. Court paperwork names him as Robert Miles.
Prosecutors say Miles' dream came true in 2006 when he bought a $5 million dollar winning lottery ticket at the Ashkar's family store on East Fayette Street in Syracuse. Assistant District Attorney Beth Van Doren said Andy Ashkar took the winning ticket and told the man it was only worth $5000. Van Doren says he was given $4000 and Ashkar told him the store kept the other $1000 as their share.
Van Doren said Miles never felt comfortable about what happened. "He has been tormented for the last six years about what ifs, could haves and should haves and right now his life is about to change forever," said Van Doren outside court on Wednesday.
Van Doren says her office has multiple credit witnesses supporting the original victim, as well as materials from the New York State Lottery.
The attorney for the Ashkar brothers says his clients do not know the victim. Outside of court Wednesday morning, Bob Durr was adamant they are innocent, and maintains they bought the winning ticket. Durr says part of the reason they waited six years to come forward, and offered to take a portion of the $5 million without a big press conference, he says, was because they were uncomfortable with the winnings for religious reasons. Also, Durr says they worried how the attention would impact their family's store, which is in a rough neighborhood.
"A lot of this had to do with protection of the family and protection of the store and protection of the parents and they thought it would be in the best interest of the family if no one knew," said Durr.
Van Doren said she knows the case has attracted a lot of national attention and she hopes the $5 million dollar prize will eventually go to the true winner.
"That fantasy, someday I may be rich and if it happened to this person, or hopefully will happen when all is done, probably will go to trial and after that the true owner will get the five million dollars," said Van Doren.