Updated: 05/01/2013 11:35 AM KSTP.com
(AP) SYRACUSE, N.Y. - One of two brothers accused of conning a man out of a winning $5 million scratch-off ticket was found guilty Wednesday of possessing the stolen ticket, but the pair was acquitted of conspiring to cheat him.
Onondaga County Court Judge Joseph Fahey found 35-year-old Andy Ashkar guilty of possession of stolen property. Fahey cleared Ashkar and his 37-year-old brother, Nayel, of conspiracy charges.
Andy Ashkar was remanded to custody. Defense attorney Robert Durr said he would consult with Ashkar and his family and decide whether to appeal.
"I don’t know what’s going to happen as a result of the court’s decision," Durr said. "My client has some options that he can explore. We’ll see what they want to do."
Andy Ashkar faces a minimum of one to three years in prison when he is sentenced May 29.
Police and lottery officials said the Ashkar brothers convinced Robert Miles, a maintenance worker, that the ticket was worth only $5,000 when Miles bought it in 2006. Authorities say the brothers paid Miles $4,000, took a $1,000 handling fee, then waited until the ticket was about to expire before trying to claim the jackpot in 2012.
Andy Ashkar testified on Friday, the final day of the trial, that he went to his father’s store for lunch on Oct. 27, 2006, and bought the winning ticket, which cost $20, while he was there.
"I scratched it on the customer side of the counter," Ashkar said, then handed it to his father. "He scanned it. He said, `Shut up!’ He didn’t want anyone to know."
Ashkar said he planned to go to the lottery office that day, then changed his mind, called his brother and went to his parents’ home.
"I was hesitant. I wanted to do it the right way," said Ashkar, who was unemployed and receiving public assistance at the time. "I didn’t want it to have a negative impact on my family."
Andy Ashkar said he waited nearly six years because he was worried for his family’s safety. Their convenience store, the Green Ale Market, a nondescript one-story cinderblock building just east of downtown Syracuse, is located in a crime-ridden neighborhood.
Miles testified during the weeklong nonjury trial that Andy Ashkar had taken the ticket from him. Miles said he wasn’t thinking clearly that day because he had been high on crack cocaine the night before. He said he never got a receipt.
Miles was not in court for the verdict.
"I’m amazed, ecstatic," prosecutor Beth Van Doren said. "Rob Miles was really close when he said, `Who would believe an ex-addict?’ Our office believed him. Some say a dollar and a dream. For Rob Miles, it was 20 bucks and a nightmare for six years."
The Ashkars’ father, Nayef, owns the store that sold the ticket and is charged with conspiracy. He has a separate trial scheduled for September.
State lottery officials have said they don’t want to address the jackpot until all court proceedings are over.
"I’m so confident they’ll do the right thing," Van Doren said.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)