46-year-old Jason Kurland obtained clients from across the country, including a winner of $1.5 billion from the Mega Millions, and made promised to make investments with their winnings. Instead of doing that, he put their money into shady investments being run by reputed Genovese crime family soldier Christopher Chierchio and two other associates, according to the US Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District.
It’s alleged that Kurland was getting kickbacks for diverting the money to 52-year-old Christopher Chierchio and his associates, who funneled part of the lottery winners’ money back to them under the impression that they were “interest payments” on their fake investments. But the “winners” ended up at a loss.
Kurland had been overseeing this scheme since 2018. Kurland skimmed $107 million from the unsuspecting investors, prosecutors allege.
Instead, the invested money funded the scammers’ luxurious lifestyles, which included expensive vacations, private jets, and also two yachts, the FBI claims.
“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,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney said on Tuesday in a statement.
“The FBI New York discovered how these victims were persuaded to put large chunks of their cash into investments that benefited the defendants. 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,” Sweeney said.
Another two who’ve been accused in the scam are 45-year-old former securities broker Francis Smookler, and age 38 Frangesco Russo, allegedly used some of the money they received from Kurland’s clients to get a $250,000 “street loan” to jewelry merchant Gregory Altieri, prosecutors alleged.
Russo and Smookler expected Altieri to repay an amount of $400,000 but then ended up threatening the jeweler and his family to get them to repay the loan, the feds claim.
“They’re gonna pop your head off in front of your f—ng kids,” Russo can allegedly be heard telling Altieri on a wiretap by the feds. “This guy has no clue what he’s getting into.”
All four men are facing wire fraud charges, and are also charged with money laundering and conspiracy via a teleconference by US Magistrates Judge Lois Bloom. In another recorded call, Altieri was allegedly told by Russo that the people coming for him will “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.”
Chierchio gave a not guilty plea and it is expected that he will be released from jail on a $3 million bond amount. As of early Tuesday evening, the other three defendants were waiting to be arraigned.
In 2019, Long Islander Chierchio was acquitted in a bid-rigging case in Manhattan State Supreme Court that’s unrelated. He was charged with conspiracy to rig construction bids on a Brooklyn luxury apartment building project, according to the Staten Island Advance at the time.
In July, federal prosecutors charged Altieri with an unrelated wire fraud indictment that alleged was running a $200 million Ponzi scheme for two years that involved him luring investors with fake jewelry deals and promising them inflated returns on their phony investments.
Kyle James Lee – The AEGIS Alliance – This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.