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How these NYC men won the lottery hundreds of times and collected millions - Daily News May 27, 2017



Saturday, May 27, 2017, 8:11 PM

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“My mother passed it to me. My family tells me I took all the luck.”

Del Rio’s winning streak may be hard to fathom, but he isn’t the only New York resident to score a mind-boggling amount of prizes worth at least $600. Five players from across the state won at least 500 times during the same period — and nearly two dozen won at least 200 times, according to an analysis of lottery data.

Some buy their tickets from a select few retailers. Others, like Del Rio, have won the lottery at more than 100 locations.

Frequent wins aren’t evidence of cheating. But the New York Gaming Commission launched an investigation of three repeat winners after being contacted for the data that resulted in this story. Commission spokesman Lee Park declined to identify the three and refused to explain why they were being probed.

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“We do not discuss the intricacies of the Lottery’s investigatory practices, other than to say they are comprehensive and thorough,” he said.

Enrico (Chico) Del Rio of Washington Heights has scored lottery prizes of $600 or more an astounding 376 times between 2009 and last year.

Enrico (Chico) Del Rio of Washington Heights has scored lottery prizes of $600 or more an astounding 376 times between 2009 and last year.


Some repeat lottery winners in states like Florida and North Carolina have been found to be store clerks or retailers who have lied to customers to claim their winnings. Other prolific winners across the U.S. have been found to be using the lottery to launder ill-gotten gains. Last year, an Iowa lottery official was busted for rigging multiple jackpot drawings.

Park said the commission, which oversees the lottery, has been taking a harder look at winners in recent years.

“We have leadership that takes these issues seriously and has brought a renewed focus to them,” Park said.

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Park said in early May that the investigations into the three winners officially began in January and were likely to conclude in the “next few weeks.”

The lottery data examined was obtained through a public records request filed in July 2016.

No lottery player in the state has won more often than Randal Stier, 56, of Central Square near Syracuse.

Stier won prizes of at least $600 more than 1,400 times over the eight-year period. His winnings, which took place over 131 separate days, resulted in a total bonanza of $1.5 million. Stier, who declined comment, also shelled out enormous amounts of money to satisfy his lotto habit, retailers say. All but two of his winnings come from two local spots, where workers estimated that he’s coughed up millions in the process.

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The top city-based repeat winners scored victories at delis and bodegas across the five boroughs. No living high-frequency winners brought in more money than Del Rio. However, no New York City players — not even Del Rio — won as many times as the late Lai Dick Fong. The Queens man won more than $1.7 million on 366 separate days from more than 530 tickets. He purchased his winners at more than 200 retailers. Fong, of Woodside, died on Jan. 27 at the age of 85.

NO CREDIT - Photo and id'ed by Gardiner Anderson - Caption edited to remove credit line

Jerry Kubie, 74, has won $1.2 million over nearly 300 separate days, mostly in his home borough of Brooklyn.


Jerry Kubie, meanwhile, won his $1.2 million on nearly 300 separate days. He cashed in on more than 400 tickets at 130 different locations. The vast majority were in Brooklyn, where he lives. The 74-year-old, a former day trader, could afford to throw down stacks and stacks of cash on lottery games.

“I would play two, three, four, five hundred dollars a day,” Kubie said outside his Bensonhurst home. “So it’s not like the average person that puts down two and three dollars.”

The father of six hasn’t limited himself to lotto tickets. He’s also spread out his wagers to casinos and the racetrack.

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Why not? He certainly had the money.

“I would buy and sell a stock 10, 20 times a day. I was capable of making $5,000 a day,” said Kubie, who doesn’t know how much he’s spent over the years on games. “If you gamble two or three hundred, it doesn’t mean anything.”

Kubie’s biggest wins came in Quick Draw, a keno-style game that has been described by critics as “video crack.” Players choose up to 10 numbers from a field of 80 — and then wait in front of video screens to see if their selections match 20 digits that pop up at random.

Kubie never bothered choosing his own numbers. He always opted for Quick Pick, allowing a computer to randomly assign his figures. But Kubie, who started gambling at age 18, said he has slowed down considerably in recent years.

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“I saw I was going cold,” he said. “And I wanted to spend more time with my family.”

Del Rio is said to have won several lotteries from tickets purchased here at VF Deli & Grocery.

Del Rio is said to have won several lotteries from tickets purchased here at VF Deli & Grocery.


Those weren’t the only reasons, he said.

“It hurt my Social Security income,” Kubie said. “The more I earned, the more they took out.

“That’s another reason I stopped playing. I couldn’t afford to win too much anymore because I’d have no Social Security.”

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Not that he’s complaining. Kubie’s lotto prize money allowed him to purchase his two-story brick home 35 years ago for $16,500 and travel to such exotic locales as Margarita Island in the Caribbean, where “they dive for pearls.”

“I’m one of the few people who can say they really made money with lotto,” Kubie added. “To be frank, I was just very lucky.”

A Mexican native who everyone knows as “Chico,” Del Rio said he’s been playing the New York Lottery for roughly 40 years — nearly as long as it’s been in operation. He said he lost an eye while stationed in Vietnam — he has a glass replacement — and settled in upper Manhattan shortly afterward.

Before his knee gave out a few years ago, Del Rio bought scratch-off cards, lotto tickets and other chance games all over the city. He racked up 177 wins in the Bronx, 176 in Manhattan, 10 in Brooklyn and six in Queens. He’s also scored big in Long Island, Mount Vernon, Yonkers and White Plains.

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“I seem to win all the time,” Del Rio said. “You got people here who never win and they play every day.”

Del Rio's apartment in a public housing complex is filled with crates of his old lotto tickets.

Del Rio's apartment in a public housing complex is filled with crates of his old lotto tickets.


By Del Rio’s telling, his lottery luck even extends beyond the U.S.

“I hit Mexico. I hit Costa Rica, Panama, Puerto Rico,” he added. “I hit numbers everywhere.”

Del Rio was stunned to hear that he’s won more than $1.4 million. He doesn’t know how much he’s spent to win that money, but said he plays up to $300 a day, an estimate confirmed by a deli clerk.

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“He spends a lot of money,” said Suzie Ortiz, from behind the counter at Villa Fundacion Deli and Grocery on Amsterdam Ave. “Sometimes, hundreds every time he comes.”

Del Rio said he used to devote a portion of his winnings to travel.

“I know Jamaica better than the Jamaicans,” he boasted.

But he said he gives away most of it to his friends, family, neighbors — and almost anyone else, it seems.

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“I give to people that sell me tickets,” he said. “I give to distant relatives.”

The 94-year-old lottery lover uses books he believes help him win, including "dream books" that calculate winning numbers based on past winners.

The 94-year-old lottery lover uses books he believes help him win, including "dream books" that calculate winning numbers based on past winners.


He then looked a reporter in the eye: “I may give you $50 or $500,” he said.

Del Rio’s most profitable game has been WIN-4, which he’s won 306 times for a total of $1.1 million.

He plays several $4 combo tickets — selecting four numbers that can result in winners no matter the order of the digits. Now that he’s immobile, Del Rio says he gives neighbors a list of numbers to play for him, typically starting with his lucky “5-0-0-0.”

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He says the numbers come to him “in his dreams.” He also relies on “dream books” that purport to reveal winning numbers based in part on calculations of past winners. One of his favorites is “Lottery Vibrations,” produced by the New Jersey-based Double Red Publishing. The company combines horoscopic and spiritual predictions with statistical analysis to tailor monthly recommendations for each player, according to owner Ben DeSomma.

“It’s 30-plus years of gathering information, so that’s a lot there,” DeSomma said.

The Gaming Commission spokesman declined to comment on Double Red’s methods, but asserted that the winning numbers are randomly selected. The spokesman also noted that one $133 million winner, who Double Red has touted as benefiting from its recommendations, actually played a computer-selected Quick Pick.

What’s not disputable is that Del Rio has often won big.

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More than 300 of Del Rio’s Win-4 prizes totaled $2,500 or $5,000. The odds for winning those amounts range from 417-to-1 to 10,000-to-1, depending on the type of Win-4 played.

Despite his winnings, Del Rio lives in a small, and cluttered, apartment in Washington Heights.

Despite his winnings, Del Rio lives in a small, and cluttered, apartment in Washington Heights.


His victories span more than 230 days, and his biggest win over the eight-year period was $200,000 in a 2013 Double Trip CashWord game, state data shows.

Del Rio may have won big multiple times, but he certainly isn’t living large. There’s nothing fancy about his tiny, cluttered apartment, located on the 18th floor of a public housing complex.

Del Rio was circumspect on how he affords his lotto habit. He abruptly asked reporters to stop contacting him after welcoming initial interviews. Before clamming up, he claimed to be the son of legendary Mexican actress Dolores Del Rio.

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“I told you who my mother is so you know where my money comes from,” he said.

At the same time, Del Rio vehemently denied there was anything nefarious behind his incredible luck.

“How could someone have something crooked going if they’ve been doing it for 40 years?” he said. “I’m not cheating. I’m just a lucky man when it comes to money.”

This story was a collaboration between the Columbia Journalism School and the New York Daily News. The story and accompanying video that appears on nydailynews.com were produced with support from the Fund for Investigative Journalism.

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