Arraignment for trio in Take Five scam postponed
The scheduled arraignment of three men who authorities said conspired to steal nearly $75,000 from a New York State Lottery Take Five winner who cannot speak or write English was postponed Wednesday because a Turkish interpreter was not available, a court spokesman said.
The arraignment in First District Court in Central Islip on a grand jury indictment was moved to Tuesday before acting Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho, spokesman Robert Clifford said.
The incident took place at a Valero gas station on Peconic Avenue in Riverhead in March, Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said. Two clerks at the station told the victim he'd won $774 -- when he'd really won $74,892, prosecutors said.
The trio -- identified as store clerks Yalcin Nergiz, 41, and Yunis Ozturk, 33, as well as Orhan Ozturk, 47, all of Riverhead -- then claimed the ticket at the lottery's Garden City customer service center, splitting the after-tax proceeds of $48,318.27, Spota said.
An attorney for the three men, all of whom are Turkish, requested an interpreter but one was not available, Clifford said.
The three have been held in county jail since their arrest last month, officials said.
The investigation was conducted by detectives from the district attorney's Economic Crimes Bureau, as well as from the Southampton Town police and New York State Lottery.
Officials said the victim, identified as Guatemalan-born construction worker Marvin Choy Nij, 28, only realized something was wrong when he learned that lottery officials are the only ones authorized to pay out winnings of more than $600 -- and then found out the card shop in Riverhead where he purchased the ticket was boasting of a $74,000 winner.
Suffolk County police said that, believing he'd been scammed, Nij returned to the station, where he had cashed the ticket, but was rebuffed by the clerks.
A Southampton Town police spokeswoman, Det. Sgt. Lisa Costa, said: "They gave him $774, patted him on the back and said 'congratulations.' They really tried to pull one over on him."
With Candice Ferrette