A Dix Hills attorney and three others were charged Tuesday with multiple counts of conspiring to commit and committing money laundering and wire
fraud offenses in a case involving the defrauding of lottery winners.
The indictment unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn acused attorney Jason Kurland, and Christopher Chierchio, Francis Smookler, a former securities broker, and Frangesco Russo with wire fraud, wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering and money laundering conspiracy in connection with a scheme to defraud Kurland’s clients that resulted in $107 million in losses. I
Kurland was also charged with honest services fraud and Russo and Smookler are charged with extortionate extension and collection of credit, allegedly for threatening to kill an individual and his family for failure to repay a usurious loan.
Kurland, of Dix Hills is a partner at the law firm Rivkin Radler and touts himself as the “Lottery Lawyer.”
One of the winners/victims won the $1.5 billion Mega Millions lottery, another won the $245 million Powerball jackpot, and the third won the $150 million jackpot. The victims are not being identified.
Court documents say that Kurland purported to represent dozens of lottery winners throughout the country with total winnings of approximately $3 billion.
The victims each paid Kurland and his law firm hundreds of thousands of dollars, in part so that he could advise them on how to safely invest their money, the federal prosecutor for the Eastern District said.
After gaining their trust with primarily traditional investments, Kurland steered his clients to invest in various entities and business deals controlled and directed by Russo, Smookler and Chierchio, and received kickbacks in return – which Kurland failed to disclose to his clients. The defendants then used the money from the Lottery Victims’ investments to keep their scheme going and to enrich themselves. A portion of these funds was funneled back to the
Lottery Victims and falsely presented to them as “interest payments” on their investments, other funds went to Kurland as kickbacks, and millions of dollars were stolen to support the defendants’ lavish lifestyles – private jets, expensive vacations and luxury vehicles including two yachts. The funds that the defendants actually invested in various entities and deals were, in
large part, eventually lost.
The indictment says, “Russo’s and Smookler invested some of the Lottery Victims’ money with Gregory Altieri, a jewelry merchant, and then extended him a $250,000 “street loan.”
“Conversations recorded during the government’s investigation revealed that Russo and Smookler expected to be repaid over $400,000 for the $250,000 loan, and the threats Russo and Smookler made to Altieri in their attempt to collect it. Russo informed Altieri that he had a “few tactical shotguns . . . with lasers,” and Smookler told Altieri that if he did not fully repay the loan, “it’s
just going to be unbelievable.” Russo compared himself to the mob-affiliated character in “Uncut Gems,” a movie that ends with the indebted diamond dealer shot dead. On another 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.”
“Smookler told Altieri, “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.”
“Russo and Smookler also threatened to harm Altieri’s family if Altieri did not
repay the loan. Smookler told Altieri that, “[W]e are gonna find your wife today. That’s happening.” Russo informed Altieri that the people coming for him are “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.”