SYRACUSE, N.Y., July 23 (UPI) -- An upstate New York convenience store owner was sentenced to the maximum 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison for stealing a $5 million lottery ticket from a drug user.
Andy Ashkar, 35, was silent as Onondaga County Judge Joseph Fahey laced into him from the bench during sentencing, Syracuse.com reported Tuesday. Fahey said Ashkar had "exhibited some of the most rapacious greed I've seen in a long, long time."
Ashkar was working the counter at Green Ale Market in Syracuse in October 2006 when Robert Miles came in with the winning ticket. Ashkar told Miles it was worth $5,000, gave Miles $4,000 and said he was keeping $1,000 as the store's cut of the profit.
Miles has since said he was a heavy drug user at the time and didn't realize he'd been swindled.
Ashkar pocketed the ticket for years until he and his brother, Nayel Ashkar, tried to claim the winnings.
In addition to owning the convenience store, prosecutors said Ashkar was pulling down a six-figure income from owning a local car dealership.
Lottery officials said they're close to finishing the investigation necessary to determine whether the ticket truly belonged to Miles before awarding him the $5 million jackpot.
Miles told Fahey he's forgiven Ashkar during the sentencing hearing.
Onondoga County Assistant District Attorney Beth Van Doren said the ticket's theft may have been a blessing in disguise for Miles, who has since kicked his drug habit.
"He's in a better position to get that money and use it to do good with his life," she said.