He was Clare Bronfman’s lawyer – for a moment. Then he got into trouble and had to back out.
Frankly he is in so much trouble now that he may rival the Vanguard for who gets the lengthier prison sentence.
Michael Avenatti, 49, has been indicted on both coasts – in Los Angeles and Manhattan. He has three federal cases against him.
In the Southern District of NY, he is accused of stealing $300,000 from former client Stormy Daniels and attempting to extort Nike for more than $20 million.
In the Central District of California, he is accused of stealing from five clients.
The busy lawyer represented Clare Bronfman in her attempt to purchase justice from the Department of Justice. Avenatti also represented Clare in her attempt to fight me in a civil lawsuit.
By the time Avenatti was indicted, he no longer represented the sinister heiress, who funded the Bronfman-Raniere criminal racketeering enterprise for more than 15 years.
Avenatti pleaded not guilty to all charges in New York and Los Angeles.
In answering the Nike extortion arraignment, Avenatti told the judge he was “100 percent not guilty!”
After his arraignment, Avenatti told the media, “Does anyone know when the president and Don Jr. will be arraigned?”
Avenatti waxed poetic as he told reporters, “For over 20 years, I have represented Davids vs. Goliaths across this nation in many courthouses just like this,” he told a wall of cameras. “I am now facing the fight of my life against the ultimate Goliath, the Trump administration. I intend on fighting these charges and I look forward to a jury verdict in each of these cases. I am confident that when a jury of my peers passes judgment on my conduct, that justice will be done and I will be fully exonerated.”
The DOJ alleges that Avenatti tricked Daniels’ literary representative to forward payments from her publisher for her book “Full Disclosure,” to an account Avenatti controlled. He allegedly forged her signature.
Avenatti allegedly used Daniels’ money to pay a lease payment for his Ferrari, travel expenses, dry cleaning, $56,000 in payroll at his law firm and into a coffee business he owned.
Avenatti, denying all wrongdoing, said, “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 for all that she received. I look forward to a jury hearing the evidence.”
In a separate case, Avenatti is accused of demanding money from Nike on behalf of a youth basketball coach who had information that company employees made illicit payments to the families of high school athletes. Avenatti wanted more than $20 million for himself and about $1 million for his client -the coach – or Avenatti said, he would go to the press on the eve of Nike’s quarterly earnings call and the start of the NCAA tournament and expose Nike.
He was arrested shortly after he announced on social media that he had scheduled a press conference to expose Nike the following day.
A few days prior to his arrest, Avenatti was quietly meeting with DOJ attorneys in the Eastern District of NY to try to craft a deal for the sinister Clare Bronfman, reportedly on the basis that, if he blew in Nike to the DOJ, they would go easy on little Clare. This is called a third party cooperation agreement and Avenatti no doubt expected to reap big money from Bronfman, but the deal fell apart when Avenatti was arrested for attempting to extort Nike.
Clare’s lead lawyer, Mark Geragos, was with Avenatti during the allegedly extortionate discussions with Nike’s attorneys and again during the conversation with the DOJ – on Clare’s behalf.
Geragos was named as a co conspirator in the Nike extortion case but it remains unclear if he will be indicted. He may be acting as a prosecution witness.
One memorable moment in court occurred just after Avenatti’s arrest when the duplicitous Bronfman was asked by Judge Nicholas Garaufis in her criminal case if Avenatti was one of her attorneys. This had not been revealed to the court and the judge appeared somewhat stern when he learned of it through the prosecution and asked the dishonest and perjury-loving Bronfman.
The clever heiress managed to faint on the spot and court was adjourned for the day. The next day Bronfman, through her attorneys, admitted that she hired Avenatti to help her with her criminal case and to sue me.
On the west coast, Avenatti is charged in a 36-count indictment in federal court for stealing client funds, tax crimes, bank fraud, perjury, embezzlement, aggravated identity fraud and other financial crimes.
Avenatti allegedly stole millions from five clients and used shell companies and bank accounts to cover up the theft
One client, Geoffrey Ernest Johnson, a mentally ill paraplegic on disability, won a $4-million settlement of a suit against Los Angeles County. The money was wired to Avenatti in 2015, but he hid it from Johnson for years, according to the indictment.
Avenatti spent all of the $4 million, some of it at GB Autosport, LLC, which managed Avenatti’s race-car team, and Global Baristas U.S., his Seattle coffee company, according to the indictment.
Out of his $4 million, Avenatti did manage to pay Johnson a total of $124,000 in installments and made some rent payments at Johnson’s assisted living facility. He told Johnson the payments were “advances” on the county settlement payment which had not arrived yet – which was a lie.
In another case, in 2017, Avenatti received $2.75 million for a client’s legal settlement, but concealed that too, the indictment says. The next day, he spent $2.5 million to buy a private jet.
He is also accused of embezzling from another client’s settlement of $1.6 million. After the money was wired to one of his bank accounts, Avenatti denied receiving it even after he’d spent it all on personal expenses, prosecutors said.
Avenatti had high expenses of course, he had a multimillion-dollar home in Laguna Beach, a private jet , a Ferrari and many other expensive toys.
In Los Angeles, Avenatti’s maximum sentence if convicted on all counts is 335 years in prison.
Avenatti faces up to 47 years if convicted on charges of trying to extort $20 million from Nike.
“I am entitled to a FULL presumption of innocence and am confident that justice will be done once ALL of the facts are known,” Avenatti wrote about himself.
Avenatti remains free on bail.
Avenatti was also arrested in November in Los Angeles for domestic violence, though he did not face felony charges.