Alleged lotto scammers face up to 15 years if convicted

CARRIE MILLER FILE PHOTO | A man who tried cashing in a $74,000 lotto ticket at this Valero in Riverside was nearly scammed out his winnings last month.

Two of three local gas station workers accused of trying to scam a construction worker out of $74,000 in Take 5 lottery winnings in April answered to a slew of criminal charges Tuesday in First District Court in Central Islip, authorities said.

Yunis Ozturk
Yunis Ozturk

Southampton Town police initially charged Yalcin Nergiz, 41, Yunis Ozturk, 33, and Orhan Ozturk, 47, with felony grand larceny and conspiracy charges. They were since indicted by a Suffolk County grand jury.

The indictment, which was unsealed in court Tuesday, also levels criminal possession of stolen property charges against all three men. Orhan Ozturk, who’s accused of cashing in the winning ticket with the state, is facing two additional charges of offering a false instrument for filing.

Orhan Ozturk received $48,318, after taxes, after redeeming the winning ticket with the state “on or about” March 19, the indictment reads.

Mr. Nergiz’s arraignment was adjourned to May 21 so that his attorney could appear, prosecutors said.

None of the money has been recovered, authorities said.

Yalcin Nergiz
Yalcin Nergiz

All three men are facing two counts of second-degree grand larceny, the top charge in the indictment punishable by five to 15 years in prison.

Both Yunis Ozturk, who was ordered to be held on $50,000 bail, and Orhan Ozturk, who was ordered to be held on $10,000 bail, pleaded not-guilty to the charges before Acting State Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho in Central Islip, prosecutors said.

“Nergiz and Yunis Ozturk, working at the Valero Gas Station on Peconic Avenue in Riverside deceived the winner by paying him $774 of the $74,892 payoff when he redeemed the ticket on March 18,” Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said in a statement before the proceedings.

Orhan Ozturk
Orhan Ozturk

The arrests were made April 19.

Orhan Ozturk, who is Yunis Ozturk’s brother, was working at an Empire gas station on Route 58 at the time. He was recruited by the other two suspects to cash in the winning ticket because of identification he has, law-enforcement sources said.

The trio was supposed to be arraigned in Central Islip on May 8, but those proceedings were delayed due to the need for a Turkish interpreter, prosecutors said.

Lawyers for the men could not be reached for comment.

According to police and the grand jury indictment, a 28-year-old construction worker, whom prosecutors identified as Guatamala native Marvin Choy Nij, brought in several lottery tickets March 18, including a winning Take 5 lotto ticket. The two store clerks cashed in the scratch-offs for a few dollars, and then saw the Take 5 ticket was a winner worth $74,892.

Instead of alerting the man to his winnings, the clerks gave him $774, congratulated him and sent him on his way without offering a receipt that the victim requested, police have said.

The victim, who does not speak or write English, later realized something was amiss after learning that a store is not authorized to hand out winnings above $600, authorities said. He also noticed Riverhead Stationary on East Main Street, where Mr. Nij purchased the winning Take 5 ticket, boasting of a $74,000 winner.

The victim unsuccessfully confronted the clerks at the store and then Southampton Town Police investigated in conjunction with the New York State Lotto Commission, the owner of the gas station and the Suffolk County District Attorney Economic Crimes Bureau, authorities have said.

Mr. Nergiz is being held in a Suffolk County jail without bail until he can appear in court.

Orhan Ozturk had posted bail and was freed later Tuesday.

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