Federal prosecutors in New York City have charged embattled attorney Michael Avenatti with fraud and aggravated identity theft. Avenatti allegedly stole a total of $300,000 from former his former client Stormy Daniels and spent the money on personal and business expenses.
Avenatti rose to fame through his representation of adult film star Daniels in her high-profile battle against President Donald Trump. Avenatti used a doctored document to divert nearly $300,000 that his client was supposed to get from a book deal, prosecutors said.
The attorney then used the funds to bankroll his law firm, and on personal expenses like restaurant delivery, airfare, and hotels. Although Daniels is not mentioned in the court filing, it is clear that she is the client involved based on the details of the case.
“Michael Avenatti abused and violated the core duty of an attorney – the duty to his client. As alleged, he used his position of trust to steal an advance on the client’s book deal,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman.
“As alleged, he blatantly lied to and stole from his client to maintain his extravagant lifestyle, including to pay for, among other things, a monthly car payment on a Ferrari. Far from zealously representing his client, Avenatti, as alleged, instead engaged in outright deception and theft, victimizing rather than advocating for his client,” Berman added.
Avenatti has maintained his innocence and taken to Twitter to deny the allegations against him. “No monies relating to Ms. Daniels were ever misappropriated or mishandled. She received millions of dollars worth of legal services and we spent huge sums in expenses. She directly paid only $100.00 for all that she received. I look forward to a jury hearing the evidence,” he wrote.
Federal prosecutors previously charged the 48-year-old attorney with trying to extort up to $25 million from Nike Inc (NYSE: NKE) by vowing to expose embarrassing details about the sportswear giant ahead of its earnings call. He allegedly threatened to reveal claims that the company made improper payments to high school basketball players to steer them to teams it sponsored.
Avenatti is also facing a multicount federal indictment in Los Angeles for failing to pay taxes, stealing millions of dollars from clients, lying during bankruptcy proceedings, and committing bank fraud. His earlier charges out of LA alone carry a potential prison time of more than 300 years as reported by the Associated Press.