Financial Crime: Father and sons who promised to help lottery winners avoid taxes charged with illegally claiming $21 million in prizes

United States

Luck finally ran out for one Massachusetts family.

A father and his two sons have been charged with illegally claiming prizes on thousands of scratch-off lotto worth almost $ 21 million on behalf of others to help them avoid taxes and other garnishments, prosecutors said.

Ali Jaafar, 63, and his sons, Mohamed, 31, and Yousef, 28, all of Watertown, Mass., are accused of running a scam known as “ten percenting” in which they take a 10% fee in order to claim lotto winnings for people seeking to avoid having their name attached to a big prize, according to a criminal indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Boston.

Ali and Mohamed Jaafar pleaded not guilty on Monday and were released on their own recognizance. A lawyer for the two men didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment. It was unclear if Yousef had been detained.

Federal prosecutors say the family had been running the fraud for nearly a decade and had filed claims on more than 13,000 tickets with prizes of $ 600 and up.

The indictment alleged that the men had worked with convenience store owners and other authorized agents to connect with actual winners. Lotto prizes are fully taxable in Massachusetts and can be garnished if a winner owes money for things like child support, back taxes or other debts.

In 2019, Ali Jaafar was the top individual ticket casher in the state; his son Mohamed was the third and Yousef was the fourth, according to the indictment. 

Prosecutors say the Jaafars also cheated on their taxes by falsely listing large gambling losses of six- and seven-figures to offset the winnings they had claimed.

The family had long been on the radar of state lottery officials who suspected something was amiss. In 2019, the state lotto commission had banned all three from claiming any more prizes. The Jaafars unsuccessfully challenged the ban in state court.