On Wednesday, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced that Avenatti was indicted on fraud and identity theft charges stemming from the business relationship he road into the national spotlight: representing Stormy Daniels in her legal battles against Donald Trump.
Avenatti is already facing a host of charges including extortion, bankruptcy fraud, and embezzlement, and Daniels previously accused her now-former attorney of filing a lawsuit on her behalf against her wishes. (He’s denied those allegations. Splinter reached out to him for comment on the newest charges and will update this post if we hear back.)
According to the U.S. attorney’s statement on the new charges, things have only gotten messier:
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “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. 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.”
Filling in the context here: Avenatti allegedly skimmed a chunk of money off of Daniels’ book deal by forging her signature on a document telling her literary agent to send all future advance payments to a trust fund (in Daniels’ name) that he controlled. He then allegedly used the money to pay for a Ferrari, among other personal expenses. Here’s what he faces, per the SNDY:
AVENATTI, 48, of Los Angeles, California, is charged in the fraud and aggravated identity theft indictment with one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, and one count of aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory term of imprisonment of two years in addition to the sentence imposed for the wire fraud charge.
The SDNY also noted that they are also indicting Avenatti on the Nike extortion charges he was arrested on last month, but that case will be heard by a separate judge. As the Associated Press reported, Avenatti’s earlier charges out of Los Angeles alone carry a potential sentence of more than 300 years in prison.