Michael Avenatti at one point was looking like a young Jon Snow, posed to take down the Trump administration. And now he’s out here looking like Ramsay Bolton.
A federal grand jury in California has indicted the former attorney for Stormy Daniels on 36 counts, including embezzling from a paraplegic client, court documents released Thursday show.
From NBC News:
Avenatti, 48, faces charges of wire fraud, failure to collect and withhold payroll taxes, attempting to obstruct the IRS, failing to file tax returns, aggravated identity fraud, bank fraud and false testimony under oath during bankruptcy.
The lawyer was arrested March 25 on some of the counts, but the 61-page indictment filed by a federal grand jury late Wednesday “significantly broadens the scope of the case,” according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.
The criminal charges in the indictment “are all linked to one another because money generated from one set of crimes appears in other sets — typically in the form of payments to lull victims and to prevent Mr. Avenatti’s financial house of cards from collapsing,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna.
Avenatti, much like the man he once tried to bring down, used Twitter to offer a statement.
“I intend to fully fight all charges and plead NOT GUILTY. I look forward to the entire truth being known as opposed to a one-sided version meant to sideline me,” he wrote Thursday.
Avenatti’s paraplegic client claims that the lawyer drained a $4 million settlement using “portions of the settlement to finance his coffee business or pay personal expenses,” the U.S. attorney’s office statement said, NBC News reports.
“Avenatti concealed the receipt of the settlement from Client 1 and instead gave him periodic ‘advances’ of no more than $1,900 and paid the rent for his assisted living facility,” the statement said.
Four other clients have claimed that Avenatti used portions of their settlements totaling millions of dollars to finance a jet, his coffee business and his own legal and personal expenses.
He also allegedly used clients’ money to pay off other client he’d stolen from and to “pay some of his law firm’s bankruptcy creditors, including the IRS,” according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
“Any claim that any monies due clients were mishandled is bogus nonsense. ... I look forward to proving my innocence,” Avenatti wrote in a tweet, accompanied by a client’s testimonial calling the lawyer “an exceptional, honest and ethical attorney,” NBC News notes.
The news site reports that Avenatti has been charged with 19 tax-related charges, which include “accusations he has not filed personal income tax returns since 2010, and didn’t file some tax returns for his two law firms. He is also accused of failing to pay more than $3 million in payroll taxes while he was the owner Global Baristas US LLC, which operated Tully’s Coffee.”
“Avenatti allegedly attempted to obstruct the IRS’s efforts to collect the taxes” by moving money from credit card transactions done at his coffee shop to a different bank account.
Also from NBC News:
Two bank fraud charges against Avenatti allege he secured bank loans by submitting tax returns that had never been filed with the IRS and by claiming that the Eagan Avenatti law firm had $508,200 in its operating account when it had only a little more than $43,000.
Avenatti is also charged with four counts of bankruptcy fraud for allegedly failing to report all of Eagan Avenatti’s accounts receivable, under penalty of perjury, and falsely testifying under oath during a bankruptcy hearing by denying the firm had received more than $1.3 million in fees when it had.
The jet that Avenatti co-owns was seized Wednesday, and in case there is any confusion, the new charges follow Avenatti’s arrest in New York last month that he attempted to extort Nike for some $25 million to keep him from snitching on payments he claimed Nike made to star collegiate athletes.
If convicted on all counts, Avenatti could face 335 years in federal prison. He’s currently out on $300,000 bond and “is scheduled to be arraigned in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana on April 29,” NBC News reports.
Damn. It was all good just a week ago.