‘Lottery Lawyer’ Jason Kurland Sentenced to 13 Years in $107M Fraud Case
A New York lawyer who specialized in advising lottery jackpot winners has received a 13-year prison sentence for defrauding clients of more than $107 million.
Jason Kurland, 49, was convicted last year on charges of wire fraud, honest services wire fraud, and money laundering.
United States Judge Nicholas Garaufis of the Eastern District of New York sentenced Kurland and codefendant Christopher Chierchio, 54, late last week at Brooklyn Federal Courthouse. Chierchio received a five-year prison sentence.
Between 2018 and 2020, Kurland defrauded his lottery winning clients of $107 million by encouraging them to invest in dodgy companies he secretly owned or was involved in.
His victims included the anonymous $1.5 billion recipient of the world’s biggest lottery win ever in 2018.
Kurland encouraged his lottery winning clients to “invest in various risky businesses that he secretly coowned and controlled with codefendants Francis Smookler and Frangesco Russo, among others,” said the United State’s Attorney’s Office press release.
Those risky businesses included an associate’s Ponzi scheme that eventually got busted by the FBI, and a failed medical equipment provider operated and owned by Chierchio.
Kurland would then also pay himself finder’s fees for negotiating the deals, running into the hundreds of thousands.
One such business included Cheddar Capital. Other partners on that venture included Smookler and Russo.
The trio used Kurland’s lottery winner connections to finance $80 million for Cheddar Capital’s investment in a Long Island jewelry business. The owner of that firm, Greg Altieri, was arrested in 2020 by the FBI, accused of running a $200 million Ponzi scheme.
Needless to say, Cheddar Capital never saw a return on that investment.
Make All Your Losses Back
But that didn’t put the trio off.
By that time, they were already using “money from the Lottery Victims’ investments to keep their scheme going and to support their lavish lifestyles, purchasing, among other things, expensive vacations and luxury vehicles, including two yachts and a Porsche,” the case press release said.
With the COVID-19 pandemic making investments even riskier, Kurland thought he’d hit a winner in April 2020.
He directly stole $19.5 million from the record-holding lottery winner to invest in medical Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) companies, owned or related to his associate, Chierchio.
Kurland had personal access to the victim’s account because of the nature of his role as a lawyer and financial adviser.
Chierchio told Kurland “to ‘go deep with me here,’ and promised that Kurland could ‘make all [his] losses back’,” said text messages intercepted by investigators.
Eventually, the Complex Frauds and a Cybercrime Unit of the United States Attorney’s Office caught up with Kurland and his codefendants.
Luck Has Run Out
Kurland himself was the only one of the accused in this case to plead not guilty in court. His lawyer argued he was a victim of the other defendant’s coercion. However, a jury found him guilty on all counts last year.
Now Kurland will spend thirteen years in prison and then a further three years of supervised release after that. He was also ordered to pay $64.6 million in forfeited funds, with restitution to be decided.
“The sentences imposed by Judge Garaufis show that for these defendants who made the lottery winners their victims, their luck has run out, and this Office will prosecute anyone who chooses to engage in fraud – no matter their title or degree,” said U.S Attorney Damian Williams.