A New York attorney is facing federal charges for scamming lottery winners out of millions. The man, who dubbed himself the “Lottery Lawyer,” is reportedly a member of the Genovese crime family, according to federal prosecutors.
According to the Associated Press, Jason "Jay" Kurland has been charged with conspiracy, wire fraud, and money laundering in connection with his representation of dozens of lottery winners across the country. In total, prosecutors claim he scammed more than $80 million from his clients.
His victims include one person who won the $1.5 billion Mega Millions lottery. Another scored $245 million from a Powerball jackpot. These clients paid Kurland thousands to advise them on how to invest their money.
Kurland is accused of telling clients to make large investments in entities run by Christopher Chierchio, who is described as a soldier in the Genovese crime family in court records. For those who are unfamiliar, the Genovese Family is part of an organized crime network operating in New York City and New Jersey. “If he were not Italian, there would be no accusation of this nature,” Chierchio’s defense attorney, Gerald J. McMahon, told AP.
Funds were also funneled to former securities broker Frank Smookler and a fourth co-conspirator named Frankie Russo. These co-conspirators were also charged with “extortionate extension and collection of credit for threatening to kill an individual and his family for failure to repay a usurious loan,” in addition to wire fraud, wire fraud conspiracy, and money laundering.
“The FBI New York discovered how these victims were persuaded to put large chunks of their cash into investments that benefited the defendants,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney said on Tuesday.
Kurland made money from sending jackpot winners to Chierchio, Smookler, and Russo, who have been accused of siphoning funds from those lottery winnings. Kurland’s scam helped fuel his “lavish lifestyles that included flying private jets, taking exotic vacations, buying boats, paying country club dues and even ‘wrapping’ luxury cars.”
All four of the men were arrested on Tuesday. According to John Marzulli, Public Information Officer for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York, all four defendants have pleaded not guilty.
Kurland has been released on a $1 million bond, Chierchio on a $3 million bond, Smookler on a $2.5 million bond, and Russo on a $2 million bond. Russo's release is being appealed by the government.
“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,” Sweeney said following the arrests. “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.”