Federal prosecutors in New York charged lawyer Michael Avenatti on Wednesday for allegedly ripping off porn star Stormy Daniels and for allegedly trying to extort Nike.
Avenatti became famous when he represented Daniels and received over $175,000,000 in free promotion through over 121 appearances on CNN and 108 appearances on MSNBC, both of which brought him on to attack President Donald Trump.
In a statement, the Department of Justice wrote that Avenatti was indicted on fraud and aggravated identity theft charges:
As alleged, AVENATTI used misrepresentations and a fraudulent document purporting to bear his client’s name and signature to convince his client’s literary agent to divert money owed to AVENATTI’s client to an account controlled by AVENATTI. AVENATTI then spent the money principally for his own personal and business purposes.
The DOJ also announced that Avenatti was separately indicted today on extortion charges, “relating to his alleged attempt to extract more than $20 million in payments from Nike, Inc., by threatening to use his ability to garner publicity to inflict substantial financial and reputational harm on the company if his demands were not met.”
“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,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said. “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.”
“Daniels isn’t named in the court filing, but the details of the case, including the date her book was released, make it clear that she is the client involved,” The Associated Press reported. “Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, initially hired Avenatti to handle a lawsuit she filed last year in which she sought to invalidate the nondisclosure agreement she’d signed with Trump’s then-lawyer Michael Cohen in exchange for $130,000.”
Avenatti is accused of forging Daniels’ signature to “steal” a significant portion of her book deal advance. The indictment states:
After assisting Victim-1 in securing a book contract, Avenatti stole a significant portion of Victim-1’s advance on that contract. He did so by, among other things, sending a fraudulent and unauthorized letter purporting to contain Victim-1’s signature to Victim-1’s literary agent, which is instructed the agent to send payments not to Victim-1 but to a bank account controlled by Avenatti.
The AP notes that Avenatti denied the allegations on Twitter, writing: “No monies relating to Ms. Daniels were ever misappropriated or mishandled. She received millions of dollars worth of legal services and we spent huge sums in expenses. She directly paid only $100.00 for all that she received. I look forward to a jury hearing the evidence.”