Biggest Lottery Winner in US Was Swindled: Prosecutors

'Lottery Lawyer' Jason Kurland charged in $107M fraud
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 19, 2020 1:13 PM CDT
'Lottery Lawyer' Allegedly Spent His Clients' Winnings
Clients' winnings were allegedly spent on yachts, jets, and luxury cars.   (Getty Images/WoodysPhotos)

The "Lottery Lawyer" advertised his services while noting that many lottery winners "are not sophisticated enough" to see potential scams. "You really have to rely on the professionals," Jason Kurland told Vice in 2016. Now three winners who relied on Kurland have lost more than $80 million, according to federal prosecutors, and Kurland and his associates are facing charges of fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy. Prosecutors say Kurland, 46, a partner at the New York-based Rivkin Radler law firm, worked with three other men—including alleged Genovese crime family associate Christopher Chierchio—to persuade the winners to invest $107 million in various projects, per the New York Times. Some of that money was then spent on yachts, private jets, luxury cars, golf club memberships, and shopping sprees at high-end stores, prosecutors say.

Winners, including the winner of the biggest lottery jackpot payout in US history, paid upward of $200,000 to hire Kurland, whose monthly fees ranged from $15,000 to $50,000, per the Times. Kurland would receive kickbacks for directing funds to projects controlled by Chierchio, 52; Frangesco Russo, 38; and Francis Smookler, 45, prosecutors say. In one case, Kurland allegedly took $19.5 million from a client's account without permission, sending most of it to Chierchio. In another, money was allegedly sent to Gregory Altieri, a jeweler accused in a $200 million Ponzi scheme, per the Times. Prosecutors say Russo and Smookler threatened to torture Altieri and kill his family after he failed to repay a loan. They also say the accused discussed how to cover up the scheme in a wiretapped phone call, per the AP. All three have pleaded not guilty. (More fraud stories.)

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