Lawyer and Donald Trump nemesis Michael Avenatti was arrested and charged in two separate federal cases on Monday: four counts of extortion in New York and charges of embezzlement and bank fraud in California.
Avenatti—who, before this, was most famous for his role as porn actress Stormy Daniels’ attorney in her legal fights against Trump—tweeted on Monday afternoon that he planned on holding a press conference on Tuesday to unveil a scandal that reached “the highest levels of Nike,” one of the major shoe companies tied up in an ongoing pay-for-play scandal embroiling college basketball. Shortly after, the Southern District of New York, in conjunction with the FBI, announced Avenatti was actually the one tied up in an illegal scandal. The official charges can be read in full at the bottom of this post.
Among the New York charges levied against the shady lawyer, prosecutors allege Avenatti “used threats of economic harm” to attempt to obtain multi-million dollar payments and secure an “additional $1.5 million” for his client. Specifically, the charges say that Avenatti, claiming to represent an Amateur Athletic Union coach who had recently been denied a new contract with Nike, told the company’s lawyers that he would hold a press conference on the eve of Nike’s quarterly earnings call and the start of the NCAA tournament to announce “allegations of misconduct” involving Nike employees.
Avenatti reiterated this line in his Monday afternoon tweet.
In the California case, Avenatti was charged with one count of defrauding a local bank and one count of defrauding his own clients. The Department of Justice complaint says that Avenatti lied to his clients about the amount they received in a $1.6 million settlement. After receiving the money in January 2018, Avenatti allegedly lied about the date they should expect the money and used the funds to pay off his personal and professional expenses, including bills for his coffee business, Global Baristas US LLC. When the clients asked where the money was when the fake deadline arrived, Avenatti allegedly claimed it simply hadn’t been transferred yet.
Avenatti is also charged in the California filing with providing a Mississippi bank with falsified tax returns to secure $4.1 million in loans. (At the time, Avenatti owed the IRS $850,438.)
Avenatti was accused by his former law firm partner in February of committing perjury and hiding millions of dollars from bankruptcy court when the company went under in 2017. This followed a complaint last fall from Daniels, who said that Avenatti was repeatedly cagey when talking about money that supporters had donated to her to cover legal fees. Somewhere in there, Avenatti decided against running for president, which, thank God.
Daniels released a statement shortly after the charges were announced.
Avenatti did not respond to Splinter’s request for comment.
Update, 1:39 p.m. ET: This story has been updated to clarify the charges Avenatti is facing.
Update, 2:15 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with further details about the New York and California complaints.
Update, 3:36 p.m. ET: Wow, this just gets wilder and wilder.