- Federal prosecutors in New York charged the celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti with fraud and aggravated identity theft related to his work for the adult-film actress Stormy Daniels.
- In a new indictment, they accused Avenatti of stealing almost $US300,000 from Daniels while representing her.
- Avenatti is a defendant in two other federal criminal cases against him. One accuses him of attempting to extort Nike, and the other accuses him of embezzling money.
- On Tuesday, Avenatti wrote on Twitter that he expected “an indictment to issue from SDNY in the next 48 hrs charging me in connection with my arrest in March. I intend on fighting these bogus/legally baseless allegations, and will plead not guilty to ALL CHARGES. I look forward to the trial where I can begin to clear my name.”
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Federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York charged the celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti with fraud and identity theft connected to his work for the adult-film actress Stormy Daniels while he was her attorney, according to a new indictment.
Avenatti used a “fraudulent document purporting to bear his client’s name and signature to convince his client’s literary agent to divert money owed to Avenatti’s client to an account controlled by Avenatti,” according to a statement by federal prosecutors” the filing said. Prosecutors added that he stole nearly $US300,000 from Daniels and used it, among other things, to buy a Ferrari.
Avenatti is already a defendant in two other federal criminal lawsuits: one, also from the Manhattan US attorney’s office, accuses him of attempting to extort more than $US20 million from Nike. The second, brought in California, charged him with embezzling a client’s money “in order to pay his own expense and debts,” and of “defrauding a bank in Mississippi.”
On Tuesday, Avenatti wrote on Twitter, “I expect an indictment to issue from SDNY in the next 48 hrs charging me in connection with my arrest in March. I intend on fighting these bogus/legally baseless allegations, and will plead not guilty to ALL CHARGES. I look forward to the trial where I can begin to clear my name.”
On Wednesday, Avenatti told ABC News that “No monies relating to Ms. Daniels were ever misappropriated or mishandled. She received millions of dollars worth of legal services and we expended huge sums in expenses. She directly paid only $US100.00 (not a typo) for all that she received.”
Avenatti rose to fame over the last year for representing Daniels, who sued President Donald Trump to get out of a nondisclosure agreement she had signed regarding an affair she claimed she had with him in the 2000s.
Daniels’ lawsuit was central to a separate Manhattan US attorney’s office investigation into Trump’s and his former lawyer Michael Cohen’s business dealings before the 2016 US election. In March, Daniels announced that Avenatti no longer represented her.
In a statement after first two cases against Avenatti were announced in March, Daniels said, “Knowing what I know now about Michael Avenatti, I am saddened but not shocked by news reports that he has been criminally charged today. I made the decision more than a month ago to terminate Michael’s services after discovering that he had dealt with me extremely dishonestly and there will be more announcements to come.”
In the Nike extortion case, an FBI agent wrote in a court filing that Avenatti said he would hold a press conference alleging misconduct at Nike unless he and another lawyer were paid between $US15 million and $US25 million to conduct an internal investigation, or were given $US22.5 million to resolve their client’s claims in exchange for their silence.
“Full confidentiality, we ride off into the sunset,” Avenatti told a Nike representative, according to the FBI agent.
Nike notified the Southern District of New York of Avenatti’s threats that same day.
Meanwhile, the California lawsuit accuses Avenatti of executing a scheme, from roughly December 2017 to March 2019, to defraud his clients and to “obtain money and property” from them “by means of material false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises, and the concealment of material facts.”
Prosecutors also allege that Avenatti attempted to facilitate a fraudulent wire transfer of $US494,500 from The Peoples Bank in Mississippi to a California Bank and Trust account in his law firm’s name.
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