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AFTER PAYING OFF JUDGMENTS, BILLS, DISBARRED ATTORNEY STILL HAS ENOUGH

New York Lottery officials call it the "Tax Free Million" Instant Cash Game.

For disbarred attorney Joseph Scirto, it was neither tax free nor instant.

And it was not $1 million that Scirto and his wife Nancy finally got this week, five months after he bought a winning $2 lottery ticket at a Wilson Farms convenience store on Millersport Highway.

But according to those involved in negotiations to satisfy Scirto's numerous creditors, including a state lawyer's fund that paid off those he defrauded, Scirto and his wife still walked away financially healthier than they were.

"It was a substantial chunk of change," said a source close to the negotiations, saying the the Lockport couple received at least $500,000 from the lottery winnings.

Scirto, a used-car salesman since his 1995 release from prison on fraud charges, started this whole thing May 10 when he stopped at the store where he buys his morning coffee, pretzels and lottery tickets.

Those who work with Scirto, 53, said he learned he won after he scratched off the ticket at the nearby auto dealership, but the celebration was short-lived.

Judgments against Scirto were estimated to total $500,000 or more, and when the ticket was later turned into lottery officials, it was done so not by Scirto, but by his wife Nancy.

But that didn't stop Niagara County District Attorney Matthew J. Murphy III from going after money Scirto owed the courts, nor State Attorney General Dennis C. Vacco, seeking money owed the state lawyer's fund.

Murphy negotiated payment of the $25,000 Scirto owed the court, and Vacco got $127,270 to repay the state lawyer's fund. Another $58,655 went to the state tax department.

"Joseph Scirto bought the winning ticket, he paid for the winning ticket and he scratched off the winning ticket," Vacco said. "New York's taxpayers -- owed hundreds of thousands of dollars by Scirto -- are entitled to a fair share of these winnings."

The remaining $814,000 was deposited in an escrow account last week while State Supreme Court Justice Eugene M. Fahey oversaw negotiations with the rest of Scirto's creditors, including the Internal Revenue Service, and banks and businesses still owed money from businesses Scirto ran.

Attorney Terrance M. Connors, representing Mrs. Scirto, said those talks ended this week when creditors were paid negotiated settlements and the remainder of the money went to Mrs. Scirto.

The Scirtos have declined to comment on the lottery dispute.

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