A New York attorney who branded himself the ‘Lottery Lawyer’ has been charged with swindling millions of dollars from jackpot winners in a conspiracy that federal prosecutors say involved a member of the Genovese crime family.
Jason ‘Jay’ Kurland, who has represented dozens of lottery winners across the US, has been charged with conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering, according to an indictment unsealed on Tuesday.
Prosecutors say the 46-year-old’s clients lost more than $80 million in the scheme.
One of the victims won the $1.5 billion Mega Millions lottery, another had hauled in a $245 million Powerball jackpot and a third won the $150 million jackpot.
Prosecutors say Kurland’s clients each paid him and his law firm hundreds of thousands of dollars, in part, so he could advice them on how to safely invest their money.
Prosecutors said Kurland encouraged his clients to make large investments in entities run by Genovese crime family member Christopher Chierchio, former securities broker Frank Smookler and a fourth man named Frankie Russo.
Kurland, who also practices real estate law, was allegedly paid kickbacks for steering jackpot winners to Chierchio, Smookler and Russo.
Prosecutors say the men used the money from the clients to keep their scheme going and even paid some money back to the victims under the guise of being interest payments on their so-called investments.
Kurland and the three other men ‘profited handsomely’ under the scheme, according to prosecutors.
They allegedly used the money to fuel ‘lavish lifestyles that included flying private jets, taking exotic vacations, buying boats, paying country club dues and even ‘wrapping’ luxury cars.’
Prosecutors say they intercepted calls in which the men can be heard discussing the scheme, attempting to cover their tracks and voicing concern over what might happen if they were caught.
All four men were arrested on Tuesday and are due to be arraigned via a teleconference hearing.
Kurland’s co-conspirators have also been charged with wire fraud, wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering.
The attorney also faces an addition charge of honest services fraud for his role in the scheme, while Russo and Smookler have also been charged with extortionate extension and collection of credit for threatening to kill an individual and his family for failure to repay a usurious loan.
As part of the alleged scheme, Russo and Smookler invested some of the money with jewelry merchant Gregory Altieri and then extended him a $250,000 ‘street loan’.
Conversations recorded during the investigation revealed that Russo and Smookler expected to be repaid over $400,000 for the $250,000 loan and threatened Altieri when they tried to collect it.
Prosecutors say the duo threatened Altieri’s wife and young son.
‘Lottery winners can’t believe their luck when they win millions of dollars, and the men we arrested this morning allegedly used that euphoric feeling to their advantage,’ FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney said.
‘The FBI New York discovered how these victims were persuaded to put large chunks of their cash into investments that benefited the defendants.
‘Rather than try their luck at the lottery, these men resorted to defrauding the victims to get rich, but their gamble didn’t pay off.’