New York, NY – Federal prosecutors announced yet another indictment against embattled attorney Michael Avenatti, this time for stealing nearly $300,000 from porn star Stormy Daniels.
Avenatti was charged with fraud and aggravated identity theft for allegedly bilking Stormy Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, out of the book advance she got from her publisher, NBC News reported.
He represented the porn star in two lawsuits against President Donald Trump, but in November of 2018 Daniels accused Avenatti of filing a defamation suit against the President without her permission.
She also accused Avenatti of setting up crowdfunding accounts for her without her knowledge or consent.
Daniels lost both lawsuits against the President and was ultimately ordered to pay him $293,000 for legal fees.
Her book, “Full Disclosure,” was released just a month before she fired her attorney.
Federal prosecutors said 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.”
The indictment said Daniels’ agent made two payments of over $148,000 to Avenatti and that so far, his client has only received half of it, NBC News reported.
Prosecutors said the attorney used Daniels’ money to pay his employees, prop up his failing coffee business, and to pay for personal luxuries like his Ferrari and his dry cleaning.
“Michael Avenatti abused and violated the core duty of an attorney — the duty to his client,” U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman said, according to NBC News.
“As alleged, he used his position of trust to steal an advance on the client’s book deal. 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,” Berman said. “Far from zealously representing his client, Avenatti, as alleged, instead engaged in outright deception and theft, victimizing rather than advocating for his client.”
Avenatti took to social media after the indictment was announced and claimed that once again, he had been wrongly accused.
“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 tweeted.
According to court documents, Avenatti met with Nike’s attorney on March 19, and “threatened to release damaging information regarding Nike if Nike did not agree to make multi-million dollar payments” to himself and others.
Avenatti claimed he had evidence that Nike employees “had authorized and funded payments to the families of top high school basketball players and/or their families and attempted to conceal the payments,” according to the criminal complaint.
The following day, he followed his threat up with a phone call to the company’s attorneys, and told that if his demands were not met, he would “go take ten billion dollars off your client’s market cap,” court documents read.
“I’m not f–king around with this” he added, according to court documents. “And I’m not continuing to play games. You guys know enough now to know you’ve got a serious problem and it’s worth more in exposure to me to just blow the lid on this thing.”
Avenatti also demanded that Nike pay $1.5 million to one of his clients whose contract the company didn’t renew.
Then in April, federal authorities announced that a federal grand jury had indicted the attorney on 36 counts of embezzlement and fraud in California.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California announced a 61-page federal indictment on April 11 that detailed how Avenatti embezzled and hid millions of dollars from his clients, ABC News reported.
The thefts took place over a 10-year period and, if he’s found guilty, could land the attorney in federal prison for more than 300 years.
“The money was used to fuel a lavish lifestyle that had no limits, including making mortgage payments on a multi-million dollar home in Laguna Beach,” Acting Special Agent in Charge of Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Ryan Korner said at the press conference to announce the indictment.
U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna detailed allegations that Avenatti had stolen from at least five clients, including a paraplegic client who won a $4 million settlement from Los Angeles County, NPR reported.
“Mr. Avenatti received money on behalf of clients into client trust accounts, misappropriated the money, and lied to the clients about receiving the money,” Hanna explained.
Court documents said Avenatti, who had already received the settlement on behalf of paraplegic Geoffrey Johnson, would occasionally dole out “advance” payments to him not to exceed $1,900.
Prosecutors also said the attorney undermined Johnson’s attempt to buy a house and risked his Social Security payments when he failed to submit paperwork, according to NPR.
“Mr. Johnson is the victim of an appalling fraud perpetrated by the one person who owned him loyalty and honest most of all: his own lawyer,” Johnson’s attorney, Josh Robbins, told ABC News in a written statement. “His actions have left Mr. Johnson destitute.”
Hanna said Avenatti followed the same pattern with at least four other clients.