Michael Avenatti, a high-profile lawyer and critic of President Donald Trump, was indicted on charges of defrauding clients and the US government out of millions of dollars, including allegations he embezzled from a paraplegic man, prosecutors announced on Thursday.
A federal grand jury in Los Angeles indicted celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti on 36 counts, including embezzlement, wire fraud, tax evasion and bank fraud connected to his alleged theft of tens of millions of dollars.
Avenatti responded to the filing on social media within minutes of its release, saying "For 20 years, I have represented Davids vs. Goliaths and relied on due process and our system of justice". After all, the Lawyer of the Year contest here is about the lawyer who best dominates the year's news, and for all the attention Michael Avenatti received combating Donald Trump to secure last year's title, this year he may make as many waves defending himself. Check back for updates.
Avenatti used another $2.5 million in settlement money belonging to another client to help pay for a private jet, the indictment said.
Avenatti allegedly scammed another client, a paraplegic man, out of a $4 million settlement without the client's knowledge, according to the indictment.
The indictment appears to pertain to another case, but federal officials are scheduled to provide further details at an afternoon news conference, the AP reported, citing a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office. "I look forward to the entire truth being known as opposed to a one-sided version meant to sideline me", Avenatti wrote in one tweet.
The court ordered federal agents to seize Avenatti's jet at Santa Barbara Airport on Wednesday.
That same day in Los Angeles, prosecutors claimed that Avenatti misused a client settlements to fund his coffee business, and also used the money to pay personal expenses.
On March 25, prosecutors in the Southern District of NY alleged that Avenatti tried to extract more than $20 million from Nike, and said if the company did not pay him, he would hold a press conference attacking the company. Avenatti also offered to accept a $22.5 million payment for his silence, prosecutors said. But Avenatti denied to the client that the total settlement had already been paid, the indictment reads. Additionally, he's also been accused of shorting the IRS of millions as well, through a method that's been described as "a tangled financial web of lies" that was "used to fund a lavish lifestyle which had no limits".
One of the clients, Geoffrey Ernest Johnson, was a mentally ill paraplegic on disability who won a $4-million settlement of a suit against Los Angeles County.
Avenatti also allegedly defrauded a bank in MS, submitting false tax returns to get three loans for over $4 million in 2014 for his law firm and a company he owns, Global Baristas US LLC.
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