Schenectady County

Lottery winners plead guilty to drug charges

Husband-and-wife lottery winners who blew through so much of their winnings that they couldn’t ma


Husband-and-wife lottery winners who blew through so much of their winnings that they couldn’t make bail in their drug cases pleaded guilty Wednesday morning to drug charges.

William and Alissia Rivenburgh pleaded guilty in Schenectady County Court, with William Rivenburgh facing up to two years in state prison and Alissia Rivenburgh facing up to three years.

The Rivenburghs had won $1 million in the lottery on a scratch-off ticket in October 2006, winnings that came as a welcome relief for the couple, who were raising four children, including William’s two nephews and a niece.

But in court Wednesday, William Rivenburgh, 41, pleaded guilty to one count of fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. Alissia Rivenburgh pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree attempted sale of a controlled substance.

Both were allowed to plead guilty in the courtroom together; first William, then his wife. It was a rare meeting for the two. Both have been held in the Schenectady County Jail since June, unable to contact each other except through letters.

In court, the two appeared to quietly joke with each other as attorneys conferenced with the judge. But as the pleas got under way, Alissia Rivenburgh appeared to get emotional as her husband pleaded guilty.

The Rivenburghs were each charged in June with felony drug counts, accused of making a crack cocaine sale May 25 at their second-floor apartment at 99 O’Dell St. They allegedly made $50 on the deal. An informant identified William Rivenburgh as the one who sold him the cocaine.

Alissia Rivenburgh allegedly made statements to police admitting to taking money from some people, then purchasing drugs for them, prosecutors said.

Also charged in connection with the Rivenburghs’ case were Nathaniel Gordon, 21, of 724 Kenwood Ave., Joquan K. Gordon, 16, of Georgetta Dix Blvd., and Rayson B. Smith, 22, of Furman Street.

The Rivenburghs’ winnings were to come in yearly installments of $50,000 before taxes over 20 years, with half assigned to William and half to his wife. County records show the two sold 10 years of payments to a structured settlement firm in January 2007, receiving about $320,000 before taxes for the $500,000 in payments.

In court last week, William Rivenburgh recounted that they gave money to family and friends, saying they have since essentially abandoned the couple. They also put money into a house that was later foreclosed on.

William Rivenburgh then did not address the role drugs may have played in the loss. He was represented in court Wednesday by attorney Michael Braccini.

Braccini indicated in court that he intended to ask acting Schenectady County Court Judge Richard Sise to give his client time served. The Rivenburghs have each spent seven months in jail, unable to make bail.

Alissia Rivenburgh was represented by attorney Michael Brosnan. He said later that he didn’t have any information about what happened to his client’s money.

The two are scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 25.

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