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The Heist Issue

The Lottery Lawyer Won Their Trust, Then Lost Their Mega Millions

Jay Kurland built a practice giving legal and financial advice to jackpot winners. He’s now accused of fraud.


Photo illustration: Chris Burnett; Photos: Len Irish

By the spring of 2020, the lottery lawyer wasn’t sure the walls were necessarily closing in. The FBI had started interviewing his insta-millionaire clients, though, and things didn’t look good. The jackpots several winners had entrusted him to invest seemed to be dwindling, and Jay Kurland wasn’t sure how much they blamed him.

Shortly before 9 a.m. on June 19, he hopped on the phone with his neighbor and business partner Francis Smookler, a tanned, easy-living ex-stockbroker. “My Staten Island clients are very concerned,” Kurland said, singling out one couple. “You know, the visits, combined with the lack of payments.”