Trial begins for Ashkar brothers, accused of stealing $5 million lottery ticket
A trial is underway for two brothers charged with stealing a winning $5 million scratch-off lottery ticket from the man who bought it at the Syracuse store owned by the siblings' father.
The trial for 34-year-old Andy Ashkar and 36-year-old Nayel Ashkar began Monday afternoon in Onondaga County Court in Syracuse. It is a bench trial.
Prosecutors say the brothers took the winning ticket from a customer, Robert Miles, who bought it at their father's convenience store in October 2006. The father's store is the Green Ale Market located on East Fayette Street in Syracuse.
Officials say Andy Ashkar told the customer he had won $5,000 and gave him $4,000 for the ticket. The Ashkars waited until March 2012 to claim the jackpot.
Andy Ashkar is charged with criminal possession of stolen property and conspiracy, while Nayel Ashkar is charged with conspiracy.
Joan China, a Lottery official from Schenectady testified at the trial on Monday. She testified that Andy Ashkar and Nayel Ashkar came into the Lottery office to claim their prize and became frustrated when security officials began questioning the circumstances about how they got the winning ticket. China said they became uncooperative with the security official who was asking questions and Nayel Ashkar threatened to tear the ticket and walk out because he didnâ??t need the aggravation.
China says the brothers could have cashed the winning ticket at any Lottery site but chose to go all the way to Schenectady to do so.
In opening statements, Prosecutor Beth Van Doren said the case is not about the fact that Andy Ashkar and Nayel Ashkar waited five years to claim the $5 million prize. â??We are here because of the falsehood and deceit,â?? said Van Doren, which she says eventually led investigators to find the real winner, Robert Miles.
Bob Durr, the attorney for Andy Ashkar, says this is a simple case of common sense. Durr asks why the real winner didnâ??t go the police. He says he plans to point out inconstancies in the prosecutionâ??s case.
Bob Tisdell, the attorney for Nayel Ashkar, referred to prosecutionâ??s case as a â??fairytale.â?? He says asks, â??Where will the prosecution prove that Nayel knew anything about it?â??
Tisdell went on to say that the Lottery â??knowingly put false statements in the paper to be tools of the prosecutionâ?? and find the real winter.
Their father, Nayef Ashkar, is accused of helping his sons and was arraigned in March on two counts of with fourth degree conspiracy.
(Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.)