Michael Avenatti charged over attempted extortion of Nike, bank fraud, and wire fraud in 2 criminal investigations

Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty ImagesMichael Avenatti.
  • Michael Avenatti was charged on Monday with attempting to extort more than $US20 million from Nike.
  • According to a charging document from the Southern District of New York, Avenatti attempted to extract the money by “threatening to use his ability to garner publicity to inflict substantial financial & reputational harm on the company if his demands were not met.”
  • According to an FBI agent’s statement in the court filing, Avenatti told Nike that if they didn’t comply with his demands, he would hold a press conference accusing the company of misconduct.
  • Earlier Monday, Avenatti posted a tweet saying he would hold a press conference on Tuesday morning to “disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by @Nike that we have uncovered. This criminal conduct reaches the highest levels of Nike and involves some of the biggest names in college basketball.”
  • Federal prosecutors in California also unveiled separate charges of bank fraud and wire fraud against Avenatti later on Monday.

New York federal prosecutors on Monday charged the celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti with attempting to extort more than $US20 million from Nike.

Prosecutors from the Southern District of New York said in a charging document that Avenatti tried to get the money by “threatening to use his ability to garner publicity to inflict substantial financial & reputational harm on the company if his demands were not met.”

News of Avenatti’s indictment came just after he posted a tweet saying that he would be holding a press conference Tuesday to “disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by @Nike that we have uncovered. This criminal conduct reaches the highest levels of Nike and involves some of the biggest names in college basketball.”

In a court filing, an FBI agent wrote 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 and in exchange for their silence.

“Full confidentiality, we ride off into the sunset,” Avenatti told a Nike representative, according to the FBI agent.


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At a press conference announcing Avenatti’s alleged extortion scheme, prosecutors said the lawyer first met with Nike representatives on March 19 and threatened to hold a press conference the following day accusing the sportswear company of being involved in the basketball bribery scandal unless Nike agreed to pay Avenatti millions of dollars under the guise of legal work.

Nike notified the Southern District of New York of Avenatti’s threats that same day.

The next day, on March 20, Avenatti allegedly said, “I’m not f—ing around with this, and I’m not continuing to play games … And it’s worth more in exposure to me to just blow the lid on this thing. A few million dollars doesn’t move the needle for me.”

He allegedly tacked on: “And I’ll proceed with my press conference tomorrow and I’ll hang up with you now … and I’ll go take $US10 billion off your client’s market cap. But I’m not f—ing around.”

On March 21, prosecutors alleged, Avenatti said, “[Have you] held the balls of your client in your hand where you could take five to six billion dollars market cap off of them?”

Avenatti also elaborated on what he would do if Nike didn’t comply with his demands, according to the charging document.

“If we don’t reach a resolution … as soon as this becomes public, I am going to receive calls from all over the country from parents and coaches and friends and all kinds of people – this is always what happens – and they are all going to say I’ve got an email or a text message or – now 90% of that is going to be bullshit because it’s always bullshit 90% of the time, always, whether it’s R. Kelly or Trump, the list goes on and on – but 10% of it is actually going to be true, and then what’s going to happen is that this is going to snowball,” he allegedly said.


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“And every time we got more information, that’s going to be The Washington Post, The New York Times, ESPN, a press conference, and the company will die – not die, but they are going to incur cut after cut after cut after cut, and that’s what’s going to happen as soon as this thing becomes public,” Avenatti said, according to prosecutors.

The FBI agent said Avenatti told Nike’s attorneys that he would time his announcement to take place on the eve of the company’s quarterly earnings call and the start of the annual NCAA tournament.

A second lawsuit from federal prosecutors in California charges Avenatti with bank fraud and wire fraud

Shortly after the initial charges were unsealed, the Justice Department said law-enforcement officials would announce “details of new criminal charges against attorney Michael Avenatti … who faces federal charges of wire fraud and bank fraud in the Central District of California.”

According to prosecutors, Avenatti is accused in the California case of embezzling a client’s money “in order to pay his own expense and debts,” and of “defrauding a bank in Mississippi.”

The lawsuit against Avenatti accuses him 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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Avenatti rose to fame over the last year for representing the adult-film actress Stormy 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. Earlier this month, Daniels announced that Avenatti no longer represented her.

In a statement after the charges against Avenatti were announced, 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.”

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

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