Self-described 'lottery lawyer' is accused of scheming to defraud his winner clients
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A Rivkin Radler partner who describes himself as “the lottery lawyer” has been charged in a federal indictment with scheming to defraud three of his winning clients.
New York lawyer Jason Kurland, 46, was accused of getting hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks to invest lottery winners’ money in businesses deals and entities controlled by three other defendants, report the New York Times, Law360, the New York Law Journal, the Long Island Press and an Aug. 18 news release.
The Aug. 13 indictment was unsealed Tuesday.
Kurland invested $107 million for three lottery winners, more than $80 million of which was stolen or lost, according to federal prosecutors in Brooklyn.
The four defendants “profited handsomely, fueling lavish lifestyles that included flying private jets, taking exotic vacations, buying boats, paying country club dues and even ‘wrapping’ luxury cars,” prosecutors said in an Aug. 18 letter to the magistrate judge, which sought orders of detention for all four defendants.
Kurland’s lottery clients paid upfront fees ranging from $75,000 to $200,000, along with monthly fees of $15,000 to $50,000, the letter said.
According to prosecutors, Kurland initially offered his lottery clients traditional investments. After the clients became comfortable with his advice, Kurland offered different investment opportunities in entities that extended high-interest loans to small businesses and a company that sold personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some of the money was funneled back to the victims and falsely presented as interest payments, while other funds paid the kickbacks and supported the defendants’ lavish lifestyles, according to prosecutors.
Kurland has worked at Rivkin Radler since 2018. It is the largest law firm on Long Island, according to the Long Island Press.
A spokeswoman told Law360 that the law firm was “taken by complete surprise” by the allegations, and it is cooperating in the investigation. The firm is working to remove Kurland as a partner. Rivkin Radler had “no role in nor knowledge of the criminal activities described,” the spokeswoman said.
Kurland was released Tuesday on a $1 million bond, according to Law.com.
Kurland told the ABA Journal in 2016 that some lottery clients want him to be involved in every decision they make because “they don’t know how to spot the scams.” Kurland was then a partner at Certilman Balin Adler & Hyman in New York.
Kurland and the three other defendants were charged with wire fraud, wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering and money laundering conspiracy. Kurland was also charged with honest services fraud.
In an attempt to recover the funds, prosecutors have seized 13 bank accounts associated with the alleged scheme and have placed liens on three properties.
One of the other defendants is Christopher Chierchio, 52, described by prosecutors as a reputed soldier for the Genovese crime family. Another defendant is Frangesco Russo, 38. Russo’s father was a captain in the Colombo crime family who died in federal prison. The fourth defendant is Francis Smookler, 45, a former securities broker.
Gerald McMahon, Chierchio’s lawyer, told Law360 that his client “strongly takes umbrage” with the claim that he is associated with the mob. McMahon said Chierchio was acquitted in a bid-rigging case last year, and he expects the same result in the new case.
Kevin J. Keating, a lawyer for Smookler, told Law360 that significant losses were attributed to fraud by a jeweler to whom they made a $250,000 “street loan.” The street loan was separate from other investments the defendants allegedly made with the jeweler using lottery winner money.
The jeweler was accused last month of participating in a $200 million Ponzi scheme. The defendants were scammed by the jeweler, “yet now they stand charged in connection with these losses,” Keating said.