Crime families, shady investments and a court case for conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering.
No, this isn’t the description of a new mob movie coming out soon. These are allegations against New York “lottery lawyer” Jason Kurland in federal court.
Kurland faces a three-week trial in Brooklyn. He faces charges of conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering. Among the accusations, Kurland allegedly steered New York Lottery winners’ money into his own cash advance business and lost more than $80 million of his clients’ money in a Ponzi scheme.
Kurland took advantage of NY Lottery winner
It all started in 2018 when Nadlall Mangal, a Staten Island mechanic, cashed in big time when he won New York’s $245 million Powerball drawing. After coming into such a large amount of money, Mangal needed help investing his new funds.
That’s when Mangal was befriended by Kurland so the two could form a professional relationship. Mangal would soon put his full trust in Kurland to make sure his money was being handled properly, and it wasn’t crazy to do so because Kurland was known for representing winners of the New York Lottery. But Mangal would soon come to greatly regret his decision.
Last Wednesday in court, federal prosecutors claimed that once Kurland gained Mangal’s trust, he started convincing his new client to invest in businesses that he owned, and he would even receive kickbacks on some investments. Mangal had this to say about their partnership:
“We had a large lump sum of money. We didn’t know what’s coming next. He made us feel very comfortable, very sure he could do this.”
Former associates ready to testify against Kurland
Kurland was arrested for his alleged crimes in August 2020. His three-week trial in Brooklyn began last week.
But Kurland wasn’t doing this alone. He was in business with Frankie Russo, the son of Joseph “JoJo” Russo, who was a Colombo crime family capo, former securities broker Frank Smookler and Genovese family soldier Christopher Chierchio. All three pled guilty and will testify in court against Kurland.
In total, Kurland lost an estimated $80 million from the ill-intentioned investments. The most egregious was a $19.5 million investment into a personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacturer that was selling their goods to the state of California during the height of the pandemic.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Louis Pellegrino alleges this occurred to cover losses from a Long Island jeweler’s Ponzi scheme that Kurland and his business associates invested tens of millions of dollars into. When Kurland heard he needed double the initial investment amount, Pellegrino said Kurland took the money from Mangal’s bank account because he had access to it.
Kurland also pushed Mangal toward the PPE investment because Kurland’s partners took money from their merchant cash advance company, Cheddar Capital, to buy luxury cars, houses and yachts. When these investments started declining, Kurland turned to Mangal’s bank account for backup.
Lottery lawyer trial now underway in Brooklyn
Kurland’s lawyer Tim Kasulis said his client is actually a victim in this massive ordeal.
“There are real criminals in this case, and you are going to meet some of them in this courtroom. But Jason is not one of them.”
Kasulis even has wiretaps of conversations between Kurland’s business associates that he plans to play during the trial. Within these recordings, according to the attorney, Smookler and Russo mocked Kurland, ultimately calling him “their prey.”
But Pellegrino doesn’t share the same sympathy for Kurland. Pellegrino said when Kurland first became the “lottery lawyer,” he was doing honest work. But in due time, Kurland started abusing his power:
“Then after gaining their trust, the defendant began to pitch his clients on certain alternative investments. To make sure he closed the deal with his clients, the defendant intentionally lied to them. The defendant never told the clients that he was one of the owners of the businesses that he was invested in, and the defendant never disclosed the 1% kickback fee that he was receiving.”
Mangal said if he’d known about Kurland’s involvement in the companies he was investing in, he never would have made the deals. The FBI even came knocking on Mangal’s door in November 2019, but Kurland told him not to worry about it. Then Mangal got a letter from the Securities and Exchange Commission in February 2020 inquiring about his investments.
The trial is still active and should conclude in the first week of August.