Federal law enforcement officials arrested lawyer Michael Avenatti on Monday for an alleged attempt to extort Nike for $20 million.
Federal prosecutors with the Southern District of New York said they are charging Avenatti “for attempting to extract more than $20 million in payments from a publicly traded company 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.”
“According to the criminal complaint, Avenatti met in March 2019 with [an] attorney for Nike and threatened to release damaging information about the company if Nike didn’t make millions in payment to himself and an unnamed co-conspirator,” CNN reported. “Avenatti also allegedly demanded that Nike pay $1.5 million to an individual he claimed to represent.”
“I’ll go take ten billion dollars off your client’s market cap,” Avenatti allegedly said, according to the Daily Mail, during the call with Nike’s lawyers. “I’m not f***ing around.”
Federal prosecutors from the Central District of California also filed criminal charges against Avenatti on Monday, saying in a statement that Avenatti “was arrested today pursuant to a criminal complaint alleging he embezzled a client’s money in order to pay his own expenses and debts — as well as those of his coffee business and law firm — and also defrauded a bank by using phony tax returns to obtain millions of dollars in loans.”
CNBC noted that the charges were announced less than an hour after Avenatti announced a press conference of his own to expose Nike.
Fox News White House Correspondent Kevin Corke reported that Avenatti is facing up to 50 years in prison if he is found guilty of the bank and wire fraud charges.
“Tmrw at 11 am ET, we will be holding a press conference to disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by @Nike that we have uncovered,” Avenatti tweeted. “This criminal conduct reaches the highest levels of Nike and involves some of the biggest names in college basketball.”
Avenatti is also facing a criminal investigation over his role in the confirmation hearings of then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley referred Avenatti and his client, Julie Swetnick, to the Department of Justice and FBI for a criminal investigation over whether they lied to Congress in regards to allegations that were made against Kavanaugh.
“The criminal referral says the committee believes Swetnick and Avenatti potentially committed three felonies — materially false statements to federal officials, conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government, and deliberate obstruction of a federal investigation — in their accusation against Kavanaugh,” The Federalist reported.
The president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., tore into Avenatti following the news of his arrest.
“Hey @MichaelAvenatti – It looks like you’ll be the one spending time behind bars after all. #basta,” Trump Jr. tweeted.
“Good news for my friend @MichaelAvenatti, if you plead fast enough, you might just get to share a cell with Michael Cohen! #basta” Trump Jr. tweeted.
“#MAGA – Michael Avenatti Getting Arrested!!!” Trump Jr. tweeted.
“Karmas a bitch huh. #basta.” Trump Jr. tweeted.