Jason Kurland, dubbed the "Lottery Lawyer" in a statement from the US Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of New York, has been charged in a $107 million scheme where prosecutors say he swindled lottery winners.
Kurland was hired by multiple lottery winners, including winners of a $1.5 billion Mega Millions lottery, a $245 million Powerball Jackpot, and a $150 million jackpot, to help with investment advice.
Prosecutors say Kurland instead steered his clients toward businesses and entities owned by three other men indicted in the scheme and, in return, received kickbacks disguised as interest payments.
The money was used by all four men to fund private jets, yachts, and luxury vacations, prosecutors said.
The "Lottery Lawyer" has run out of luck.
Jason Kurland, a New York lawyer who nicknamed himself the "Lottery Lawyer," has been charged for his part in a $107 million scheme where he swindled money out of lottery winners and partnered up with extortionists, federal officials said on Tuesday.
Prosecutors charged him with wire fraud, money laundering, and several others charges in a scheme to defraud his clients and use the funds to improve his own lifestyle, according to a statement from the US Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of New York. Three others — Christopher Chierchio, Francis Smookler, and Frangesco Russo — have also been charged.
Victims of the scheme have not been named, but were identified by prosecutors as winners of a $1.5 billion Mega Millions lottery, a $245 million Powerball Jackpot, and a $150 million jackpot.
Prosecutors said each victim paid Kurland's law firm hundreds of thousands of dollars for investment advisement, and he usually directed his clients toward entities and business deals controlled by Russo, Smookler, and Chierchio. In return, Kurland received kickbacks disguised as interest payments, prosecutors say, and used the funds to enrich his own life.
"Millions of dollars were stolen to support the defendants' lavish lifestyles – private jets, expensive vacations and luxury vehicles including two yachts," prosecutors said. "The funds that the defendants actually invested in various entities and deals were, in large part, eventually lost."
Kurland didn't immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.
Two of the people involved extorted a jewelry merchant in an 'Uncut Gems'-like scheme, prosecutors say
In another part of the scheme, prosecutors say Russo and Smookler invested some of the lottery winners' money into a jewelry merchant named Gregory Altieri, whom they also extended a $250,000 street loan, which they expected to be repaid as $400,000.
In trying to collect the loan, Russo threatened Altieri by saying they had guns, and compared himself to a mob-affiliated character in the 2019 film "Uncut Gems," which ends with a diamond merchant being killed.
Prosecutors said in one call Russo told Altieri: "They're gonna pop your head off in front of your f------ kids. This guy has no clue what he's getting into."
In another, Smookler said: "You watch my man, you f-----d me, now watch what I am gonna do to you, I'm coming brother. Full f-----g steam ahead."
Prosecutors said Russo and Smoker threatened to kill Altieri's family, and in one call, Russo said people were "going to make you watch as they rip your son's teeth out of his mouth, watch, they're going to do worse things to your wife."
The government is now working to recover stolen funds and has seized 13 bank accounts connected to the defendants' scheme.
All four men have been charged with wire fraud, wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering, and money laundering conspiracy in the scheme. Kurland has also been charged with honest services fraud, while Russo and Smookler face additional charges of extortionate extension and collection of credit in connection to incidents involving Altieri.
"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."
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