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New York shop owner, son charged in theft of $1 million lottery ticket

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Long Island convenience store owner and his son, accused of duping a customer who spoke limited English out of a $1 million winning lottery ticket, were charged on Saturday with grand larceny.

The 34-year-old Hispanic man bought a $10 "Unwrap The Cash" scratch-off game at the Peninsula Deli & Grocery in Hempstead, New York, on Thursday and after playing the game, believed he was a winner, Nassau County Police said.

He handed the card to store clerk Karim Jaghab, 26, the son of deli owner Nabil Jaghab, 57, police said.

The clerk confirmed the win by scanning the card and receiving a message from the New York State Lottery which read, "File Claim: Jackpot Winner - Please Return Original Ticket To The Customer Along With A Claim Receipt," police said.

Instead, Jaghab told the victim he won $1,000 and paid him in cash.

"The victim then left the store with his believed winnings. The winning ticket was in fact a 'Jackpot Prize' for $1,000,000," police said in a statement.

The man, who police said "didn't speak English very well," became suspicious and returned to the deli on Friday to question the younger Jaghab.

The clerk told him, "OK, I will pay you $10,000 as long as you don't involve the police," the police statement said.

The elder Jaghab confirmed what his son said, telling the customer, "You only won $10,000," police said.

Increasingly doubtful about the Jaghabs' claims, the victim called police.

Detectives determined the father and son attempted to deceive the victim and claim the winnings for themselves. Any prize worth $600 or more must be redeemed at a New York State Lottery Office and cannot be cashed in at the place of purchase.

The father and son were arraigned on grand larceny charges on Saturday. Their lawyer, Matthew Fleischer, said in court that the incident was a "simple mistake" on a lottery machine payout, local media reported.

Fleischer, who works for the law firm of Jaghab, Jaghab & Jaghab in Mineola, did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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