Macomb County man accused of cheating investors out of $19 million to fuel gambling habit

A suburban Detroit man was charged Thursday with cheating investors out of $19 million to fuel his lottery habit.

Viktor Gjonaj, 43, was buying as much as $1 million in Daily 3 and Daily 4 Michigan lottery tickets every week, the government alleged.

Gjonaj was a "well-respected businessman who unfortunately developed a gambling addiction that led to this situation," attorney Steve Fishman told The Detroit News. "His addiction was well known to the state of Michigan which, nevertheless, allowed him to keep gambling."

FILE - Generic gavel on wooden table.

The Macomb County man used his experience as a real estate broker to persuade people to give him money for what he touted as lucrative property deals, prosecutors said.

"All of the money paid to Gjonaj was used by him to play lottery games and to cover his losses in those games," the prosecutors wrote.

The fraud charge in federal court was filed as a criminal information, which typically signals that a guilty plea is expected.

Gjonaj "thought he had discovered a guaranteed way to win huge jackpots" but his losses were mounting by 2017, prosecutors said.