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Indian lottery winner poisoned before claiming win

New York: Indian American business owner Urooj Khan, 46, died suddenly as he was about to collect his winnings after scooping the $1 million jackpot on an Illinois Lottery scratch card. A medical examiner said on Tuesday that he plans to exhume Khan’s body as toxicology tests showed that he died of cyanide poisoning.

While a motive has not been determined yet, police haven't ruled out that Khan was killed because of his $1 million lottery win. He died on 20 July just before he could collect the winnings, about $425,000 after taxes.

The day before his death, the state had issued the cheque containing Khan's winnings. It was finally cashed on 15 August, lottery spokesperson Mike Lang said, explaining that if a lottery winner dies, the money typically goes to his estate.

About a week after Khan’s death, a relative asked the medical examiner’s office to take a closer look at Khan’s sudden death. By early December, comprehensive toxicology tests showed that Khan had died of cyanide poisoning.

Urooj Khan was allegedly poisoned after scooping $1 million lottery jackpot. Image courtesy: Illinois Lottery

The police have not announced any suspects so far.

Khan’s wife Shabana Ansari, said she has spoken with police detectives about the case, but she was not the one who asked for an investigation and that she doesn't know who it was.

Ansari told the US media that Khan was a hard-working and generous man who sent money to orphanages in India.

"I was shattered. I can't believe he's no longer with me," Ansari told Associated Press.

Her husband owned a dry-cleaning business which he started after immigrating to the US from Hyderabad in 1989.

Ansari said her husband planned to use the lottery winnings to pay off mortgages, expand his business and give a donation to the St Jude Children's Research Hospital. Ansari said her husband did not have a will and the money is now tied up in a probate court.

Khan bought an instant scratch lottery game in June while at a 7-Eleven store near his home in the West Rogers Park neighborhood in Chicago. It turned out to be the $1 million jackpot winner.

The 7-Eleven store assistant Ashur Oshana told reporters that Khan confided in him that he had bought the tickets despite a pledge that he would abstain from gambling.

“He took my hand and kissed my hand and my head and gave me $100. He was really happy,” said the store assistant.

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