NY brothers wait years to claim $5M lottery prize

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — Two brothers from central New York have claimed a $5 million lottery prize for a scratch-off ticket they bought at their parents' Syracuse store six years ago, state officials said.

Andy Ashkar, 34, of Camillus, and Nayel Ashkar, 36, of Cicero, came forward March 1, just 11 days before the top prize in the "$500,000,000 Extravaganza" scratch-off game would have expired, New York Lottery said.

Andy Ashkar said he bought the ticket at his parents' convenience store in Syracuse in 2006 and decided to share the winnings with his brother, officials said.

The agency said the younger brother said he waited so long to claim his prize because he was concerned the windfall could "negatively influence" his life if he didn't plan properly before being publicly introduced as the winner. Andy Ashkar also told lottery officials that he also didn't want the windfall to influence his engagement and subsequent marriage.

Calls to phone numbers listed for the Ashkar brothers went unanswered Wednesday morning.

Nayel Ashkar's wife, Sara, told The Post-Standard of Syracuse on Tuesday that news of the winnings was spreading fast, with family and friends calling to express their surprise and excitement.

"It's crazy," she said. "Hard to believe. It's still sinking in."

The brothers' mother, Wasa Ashkar, said her husband, Neyef, sold the winning ticket to Andy at the couple's Green Ale Market, but she couldn't remember exactly when. She said she and her husband were Palestinians from Jerusalem who immigrated to the United States nearly 40 years ago and have owned the store for 12 years.

"I'm happy. Of course I'm happy," she told The Associated Press over the phone before ending the conversation because she was busy with customers Wednesday morning.

Lottery spokeswoman Carolyn Hapeman said the brothers claimed their prize at the agency's Schenectady headquarters on March 1. Unlike winning tickets for games such as Lotto and Mega Million that expire in a year, tickets for scratch-off games expire a year after a game is retired. The Extravaganza game was retired on March 12, 2011, Hapeman said.

As is routine whenever a winner is related to the owner of the store that sold the ticket, the agency conducted an investigation. The inquiry determined Ashkar's scratch-off ticket was bought legitimately, Hapeman said.

The Ashkar brothers, both employed as managers at separate central New York auto dealerships, will be introduced at a news conference at a later date, the lottery spokeswoman said.

Associated Press
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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