But the authorities say the only winner was Father Ascolese, who stands accused of stealing more than $600,000 from his church and several charities. The pastor, known as Father Bob here amid the cornfields, stood handcuffed in front of a judge on Thursday in the Warren County courthouse, pleaded not guilty and was released on $75,000 bail.
A 32-count indictment charges that Father Ascolese, 45, who came here in 1999 to start the academy, wrote checks — including one for $100,000 — to fake people or to real ones who had never heard of the lottery, and then diverted the money to himself.
From 2001 to 2005, the indictment says, the church sold more than 4,000 tickets but no one ever collected a prize.
The school, which was holding classes on church grounds while awaiting the new building, closed in May because of a lack of funds.