Most of poisoned lottery winner’s estate goes to widow — brother says ‘nonsense’
BY LISA DONOVAN AND RUMMANA HUSSAIN Staff Reporters February 7, 2013 3:58PM
Shabana Ansari (left) wife of Urooj Khan (center) when he received the $1 million check from the Illinois Lottery. Courtesy NBC5
Updated: March 10, 2013 6:22AM
Adding another twist to the mystery of the poisoned lottery winner, a lawyer representing his widow produced documents Thursday that the attorney said show that two-thirds of the deceased North Side businessman’s $2 million estate automatically goes to the widow.
Bolstering the claim, attorney Al-Haroon Husain produced an agreement he said million-dollar lottery winner Urooj Khan signed two months before his death, stipulating that his interest in a dry cleaning operation would go to his wife, Shabana Ansari, in the event of his death.
The so-called “operating agreement” was signed May 2, said Husain, who’s representing Ansari in a pending court case to divvy up her late husband’s assets. That includes the proceeds from Khan’s winning lottery ticket.
But the dead man’s brother called the agreement “baseless and nonsense” and said its sudden appearance is fishy.
“Why would he [sign an agreement] to transfer everything to his wife? Did he know that he was going to die? Did he know [someone] was going to kill him?” Imtiaz Khan said.
Urooj Khan hit the lottery jackpot weeks after signing the business agreement. By July 20 he was dead, the victim of cyanide poisoning.
The homicide case has caused plenty of strife among family members and garnered international headlines — particularly after Urooj Khan’s body was exhumed last month to determine how the cyanide got in to his system .
Khan’s brother Imtiaz Khan suggests in court papers that Khan’s teenage daughter — and only child — is being excluded from any inheritance.
Indeed the matters have become somewhat complicated because Urooj Khan left no will.
After a brief hearing in probate court Thursday, Husain told reporters that Urooj Khan’s widow was not only sole heir to Khan’s stake in the dry-cleaning business and the real estate it sits on, but also the family home in West Rogers Park and a second piece of real estate — both under a “joint tenancy” ownership agreement signed years ago.
“Those two items his wife is getting automatically will not go to anybody else in the estate, namely his daughter,” Husain told reporters after a brief court hearing in the matter.
The case is still pending.
An attorney for Urooj Khan’s daughter did not return a call for comment.
While the estate was valued at $2 million in the beginning, Husain argues that the business and real estate — worth a combined $1.32 million — can no longer be included in that sum because it now belongs to Ansari.
That would mean the estate is worth about $680,000, which includes the proceeds of Urooj Khan’s lottery win, Husain said. Without a will, state law dictates that his two survivors — his wife and daughter would split the $600,000-plus, he said.
Khan’s brother says he thinks it’s fishy that Husain has taken so long to produce the agreement.
“They have been coming to probate court all this time. Why didn’t they produce this before?” he said.
When told that Imtiaz Khan brushed off the validity of the agreement, Husain, who over the years had been a legal advisor to Urooj Khan, said: “It’s legal. [I] wrote it myself.”
But even Husain couldn’t figure out why Urooj Khan decided to ink the agreement.
Husain said such agreements aren’t unusual, but he was “surprised” that it listed heirs. Typically that’s done in a will.
“I was a bit surprised by the operating agreement saying that all shares go to his wife, but it’s the choice of the individuals,” Husain said, adding at one point: “The only thing I can believe is that he wanted to make sure that his wife had the business and had attachment to the commercial property if something happened to him.”
He said that only the two business owners signed the deal — no one else.
Pressed about whether the agreement seems suspicious considering Khan died little more than two months later, Husain said: “I don’t think he thought he would be passing away so soon.”
Immediately after Khan died July 20, the Cook County medical examiner’s office ruled his death was natural: hardening of the arteries.
But a relative called and told the Cook County medical examiner’s office that they needed to take a closer look.
Indeed, a more extensive toxicology test showed he had died from cyanide poisoning, and his death was declared a homicide in November.
Last month, his body was exhumed and even more testing was done on his remains to determine how the poison got into his body — perhaps by inhaling it or even eating something tainted with the cyanide.
Test results were expected next week, according to the medical examiner’s office.
No arrests have been made in the case, nor have any suspects been identified.
Ansari, denied any involvement in her 46-year-old husband’s death, adding that she’s been cooperating with the police investigation.
“No, I loved him to death,” she told the Sun-Times last month, fervently denying she had a hand in his death. “I loved him and he loved me the same way.”
She said that the night before he died, she had made him a traditional Indian meatball meal for dinner. He went to bed and fell sick in the night.
He was pronounced dead early the next morning at an Evanston hospital.