The verdict for two brothers accused of stealing a winning $5 million scratch-off lottery ticket was handed down in Onondaga County Court Wednesday morning.
Judge Joseph Fahey found Andy Ashkar guilty of criminal possession of stolen property. Both Andy and Nayel Ashkar were acquitted of conspiracy charges.
Andy and Nayel Ashkar were accused of stealing the winning $5 million ticket from Robert Miles who claims he bought it at the Green Ale Market in Syracuse, which is owned by the siblings' father Nayef Ashkar.
Assistant District Attorney Beth Van Doren says she is "very confident" that the Lottery will award the $5 million prize to Robert Miles.
Andy Ashkarâ??s attorney, Bob Durr, says they are reviewing options for appeal. Andy Ashkar still believes that he is the rightful owner of the winning lottery ticket, says Durr, and is aware that if he was to pursue legal action, it would be a civil case.
The Lottery issued a statement saying they "cannot speculate on when and to whom a payment will be made in this case." (
Read the full statement
Andy Ashkar faces a minimum sentence of 1 to 3 years in state prison. His sentencing is scheduled for May 29.
Andy and Nayel Ashkar had been charged with conspiracy. Andy Ashkar had also been charged with criminal possession of stolen property.
The bench trial lasted four days with testimony from Andy Ashkar, Robert Miles, a co-worker of Miles and New York State Lottery officials.
Prosecutors say the brothers scammed Miles out of the winning ticket in October 2006 by telling Miles he won $5,000 and giving him $4,000 for the ticket. The brothers
waited until March 2012
to claim the jackpot at a Lottery office in Schenectady.
Andy Ashkar testified that
he didnâ??t steal the ticket or have any contact with Miles. He said that after scratching off the ticket he started driving to the lotto office but stopped to think about it first.
Andy Ashkar said he waited five years to cash in the $5 million lottery ticket because, he said, "I had a lot going on." He said he waited two years to tell his wife about the ticket.
Ashkar was unemployed in 2006, when itâ??s alleged he stole the ticket, and applied for and received Medicaid benefits in 2007. Ashkar said he didn't tell the state about the lottery ticket when applying because, he said, "I filled out the form quickly."
Miles testified that he often
purchased lottery tickets from the Green Ale Market and that he remembers buying the ticket in October, 2006, scratching it off, and immediately realizing it was worth $5 million. Miles says he showed the ticket to Andy Ashkar, who told him it was only worth $5,000, and that Andy cashed it for him for $4,000.
Miles said he didn't come forward about the winning ticket until recently because he didn't have any evidence. He said it would have been Andy's words against his.
The Lottery was contacted by Syracuse Police on behalf of Miles after the lottery out a news release about the winning ticket, without being sure of the winners, to see if anyone else would come forward to claim the ticket.
Ramon Rosario, a co-worker of Miles
, said he was with Miles when he bought the ticket and that when he looked at the ticket, he noticed that Miles had not completely scratched off the ticket. Rosario said Miles thought he won $5,000 but Rosario told him it was worth $5 million. When Miles came back from the store with only $4,000, Rosario said he told Miles he was robbed. Rosario admitted that he never contact the police about the ticket and continued going to the Ashkarâ??s store after the incident.
A lottery employee testified that the Lottery's rules prohibit a retailer from paying out any winning lottery ticket worth more than $600 and that that Andy Ashkar has turned over five winning lottery tickets worth $1000 or more since 2006.
Joan China, a New York State Lottery
official from Schenectady, testified
that Andy and Nayel Ashkar came into the Lottery office to claim the prize and became frustrated and uncooperative when officials asked how they got the ticket. China said Nayel Ashkar threatened to tear the ticket and walk out because he didnâ??t need the aggravation. She said the brothers could have cashed the winning ticket at any Lottery site but chose to go all the way to Schenectady to do so.
Andy Ashkar told Lottery officials he would have been willing to take a lesser amount in exchange for remaining anonymous. Ashkar said he wanted to protect his family and that he went to the Schenectady office because he didnâ??t want attention from the media in Syracuse.
Kent VanderWal, an attorney for the Lottery, said he was concerned that the prize wasnâ??t claimed for several years, that the brothers were related to the retailer, and that they did not want to go public with the winning. He sent a news release about the winning ticket which prompted Miles to contact police.
The brothers' father, Nayef Ashkar, is accused of
helping his sons
and was arraigned in March on two counts of with fourth degree conspiracy.
Sentencing for Andy Ashkar is scheduled for May 29th.