Two Riverhead brothers pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a seven-count indictment accusing them and an accomplice of duping a lottery winner out of his $74,892 prize, the Suffolk district attorney's office said.
Yunis Ozturk, 33, and his brother Orhan Ozturk, 47, were arraigned on second-degree grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property and conspiracy to cheat Take Five winner Marvin Choy Nij, 28, a construction worker, said Robert Clifford, spokesman for District Attorney Thomas Spota.
Their alleged accomplice, Yalcin Nergiz, 41, of Riverhead, is scheduled to be arraigned May 21.
The case unfolded after Nij, a Guatemala native who told police he cannot speak or write English, went on March 18 to the Valero gas station in Riverhead to check his ticket, officials said.
When the gas station clerks, Nergiz and the younger Ozturk, scanned the ticket and saw how much it was worth, they decided to claim the bulk of the money for themselves, said Det. Sgt. Lisa Costa of the Southampton police.
"They gave him $774, patted him on the back and said 'Congratulations,' " Costa had said. "They really tried to pull one over on him."
Ozturk later gave the winning ticket to his brother Orhan, who cashed it March 19 with the New York State Lottery, police said.
The trio split the proceeds, which amounted to $48,318.27, and that money has not been recovered, Clifford said.
The victim realized something was wrong when he learned that only lottery officials were authorized to pay out winnings above $600 -- and that the store where he bought his ticket was boasting a $74,000 winner, police said.
Nij went back to the gas station, where he was rebuffed by the clerks, police said.
That launched an investigation by police, lottery officials and economic crimes bureau in the district attorney's office.
The three suspects were each indicted on two counts of second-degree grand larceny; two counts of second-degree criminal possession of stolen property; and fourth-degree conspiracy.
Yunus Ozturk was held pending a $50,000 cash bail.
Orhan Ozturk was held pending a $10,000 cash bail; the indictment also charges him with two counts of first-degree offering a false instrument for filing, a felony.
Defense attorneys for the brothers could not be immediately reached for comment. The attorney for Nergiz was not immediately identified.