Attorney Michael Avenatti faces 36-count federal indictment in California

Arturo Kim
April 14, 2019

As prosecutors outlined the charges, Avenatti appeared briefly in Los Angeles Superior Court to answer questions about money he owes attorney Jason Frank for legal work he performed.

Prosecutors also charged Avenatti with giving false testimony in a case involving the bankruptcy of his law firm Eagan Avenatti LLP.

The 48-year-old was arrested last month on a criminal complaint in which prosecutors said he stole money from one client and used bogus tax returns to obtain a series of loans, but the indictment announced Thursday broadens those charges. To prevent discovery of his scheme, he told clients the settlement proceeds hadn't yet been paid, among other tactics.

Robbins says he's never seen a defendant tweet incriminating evidence on the day they were indicted.

Avenatti used another $2.5 million in settlement money belonging to another client to help pay for a private jet, the indictment said.

Avenatti had been scheduled to face questioning about some of almost $15 million he owes attorney Jason Frank for legal work.

Avenatti responded on Twitter, writing that "for 20 years, I have represented Davids vs. Goliaths and relied on due process and our system of justice".

He continued, "I intend to fully fight all charges and plead NOT GUILTY".

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If convicted on all 36 counts, Avenatti faces a maximum 335 years in prison.

Avenatti was indicted late Wednesday on the charges following his arrest in NY last month for allegedly trying to shake down Nike for up to $25 million.

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.

The new charges say he embezzled from a paraplegic man and four other clients and shuffled money between several accounts to deceive them.

He was also charged with 19 tax counts, including lying to an Internal Revenue Service officer, not paying personal income taxes since 2010, failing to pay taxes for his businesses, including two law firms, and pocketing payroll taxes from the Tully's Coffee chain that he owned, the indictment said.

Mr. Hanna added on Thursday that federal agents seized a jet belonging to Mr. Avenatti, which was purchased with funds that he alleged were stolen from a client. "I look forward to the entire truth being known as opposed to a one-sided version meant to sideline me", he tweeted.

The embattled attorney was previously indicted in California on bank- and wire-fraud charges and in NY on extortion charges related to an alleged attempt to blackmail Nike, but the indictments handed down Thursday represent a dramatic escalation of his legal troubles: They could result in a maximum sentence of 335 years in prison.

The celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti has been charged with 36 counts of fraud, embezzlement, perjury, failure to pay taxes, and other financial crimes in Los Angeles, according to a newly unsealed indictment.

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