The Italian stopped by police at an airport allegedly trying to flee the country with a winning lottery ticket worth EUR 500,000 (GBP 428,000) that he is accused of stealing from a 70-year-old woman claims the ticket is his and the woman is a “liar” who he plans to sue for defamation.
Gaetano Scutellaro, 57, is accused of stealing the winning ticket from the elderly woman at a tobacconist in the Materdei district in the city of Naples.
He was then arrested 197 kilometres (123 miles) from Naples at the Fiumicino airport in Rome on Saturday (4th September) where police found him with a one-way ticket to Spain, but without the winning lottery ticket.
Scutellaro told iNews24.it that he firmly denies the allegations and added that the 70-year-old woman who accused him of stealing the ticket is a “liar.”
He explained: “I bought the ticket from a mate of mine the day before, I only asked the lady to go and collect the winnings which I thought amounted only to EUR 500 (GBP 429)”.
Scutellaro claims that the reason he couldn’t collect the money himself is that the tobacconist is not actually his, but his ex-wife’s, who he is not on good terms with.
He said he waited for the woman, who has not been named, outside of the shop on his scooter.
When she walked out he asked her what had happened, at which point he claims she told in the real value, and said he needs to take the ticket to the bank to store it in a safe deposit box for safekeeping.
He said: “I took the scratch card and left. This was all recorded by the security camera outside the shop.”
Scutellaro didn’t provide details on where he placed the scratch card exactly but he did say that in the future he would tell everyone where it is.
He said that after taking the scratch card back from the woman: “I decided to leave Naples out of fear for my life. I had no idea about the woman’s accusations against me when I was arrested at the airport.”
Scutellaro did not expand on why he was in fear of his life or why he drove all the way to Rome to leave the country as opposed to flying from the airport in Naples, but he did say that he will sue the 70-year-old woman for defamation.
The woman, who claims Scutellaro stole the scratch card, told a local news site il Riformista that she walked into the shop and said: “Young man, have I really just won EUR 500,000 (GBP 428,000)?”
The 70-year-old, who according to il Riformista is in a state of despair, said that after handing the ticket to the clerk it was passed onto Scutellaro who snatched it and ran out of the shop, jumped on his moped and disappeared out of sight.
The police continue to suspect Scutellaro and believe that he took the stolen scratch card to a bank where he opened a new account possibly for the purpose of depositing the money with the intention of returning in the future to withdraw it.
However, the lottery company have frozen any payments for the prize until the matter of who owns the winning ticket is decided.
Marcello Minenna, director-general of the Customs and Monopoly Agency, told local media: “When we have retrieved the ticket, it will be my responsibility to return it to the legitimate owner.”
He added: “I am certain this story will have a happy ending.”
The investigation is ongoing.