Lawyer Michael Avenatti is being sued by a former client who says he stole $4 million the client won in a settlement, according to Reuters. Avenatti’s former client Stormy Daniels also says he stole money from her, and Avenatti is currently under federal investigation for crimes including wire fraud and extortion.
Geoffrey Johnson, who is paraplegic and uses a wheelchair, says Avenatti took a $4 million settlement he won in a court case. Johnson is suing Avenatti and several of his former colleagues for $9.5 million plus punitive damages.
“I never thought I would get victimized by my own attorney,” Johnson said at a press conference on Thursday, according to Reuters. “I wish he had just given me my money.”
“Mr. Johnson’s claims are categorically false and frivolous, and his case will be thrown out of court,” Avenatti told Reuters.
The June 11 complaint accused Avenatti of draining nearly all of the $4 million settlement, while paying Johnson roughly $1,900 a month to lull him into thinking his money was safe.
Johnson also said Avenatti lied to the Social Security Administration about the monthly payments, costing him needed supplemental benefits. [...]
Prosecutors had in April said Avenatti diverted some of the $4 million to finance his coffee shop business and a lavish lifestyle, and gave Johnson only about $124,000.
The settlement that Avenatti allegedly stole was from Los Angeles County, which Johnson sued in 2015 for injuries he sustained when he was jailed in 2011, when he says he was suffering from mental illness and wrongly arrested. Johnson then tried to commit suicide by jumping off an elevated floor in a Los Angeles County jail after he says he experienced abuse from sheriff’s deputies and other inmates.
“On a 1-to-100 scale, the despicability of [Avenatti’s] conduct ranks 1,000,” Johnson’s lawyer Daniel Callahan said at the press conference, according to Reuters. “It is off-the-charts bad.”
Avenatti’s former colleagues Michael Eagan, Jason Frank and Scott Sims all also named in the suit, but they say Avenatti was solely responsible for stealing the money.
Frank’s lawyer Eric George told Reuters that Frank was “as much a victim of Michael Avenatti as anyone else. It is regrettable that Mr. Johnson’s lawyers are misdirecting their claims.”
Sims told Reuters that he has evidence that Avenatti “stole Mr. Johnson’s settlement money.”
“We are appalled by Mr. Avenatti’s conduct and hope that Mr. Johnson obtains justice against Mr. Avenatti,” Sims added.