It’s hard to read sleazeball attorney Michael Avenatti’s intentions when it comes to the prospect of a presidential run. After his arrest in early December on charges of domestic violence, Avenatti claimed that his 2020 chances had improved, despite his reversal of fortunes. A day later, he announced he would not be running.
Now his plans are anybody’s guess, though it’s safe to assume that if he does run, it won’t be another 333 years or so. That is the maximum time Avenatti could face in prison if he is convicted of all 36 counts of fraud, perjury, failure to pay taxes, embezzlement, and other financial crimes that have been brought against him.
The indictment by a federal grand jury, which was announced Thursday morning, comes on top of last month’s charges of wire fraud and tax fraud by federal prosecutors in California, as well as alleged efforts by the high-profile attorney to extort from sportswear maker Nike in New York.
Perhaps the most heinous of Avenatti’s alleged crimes was his stealing millions of dollars from five clients and creating a web of fake companies and bank accounts to cover up his thefts. Per the Los Angeles Times:
One of the clients, Geoffrey Ernest Johnson, was a mentally ill paraplegic on disability who won a $4-million settlement of a suit against Los Angeles County. The money was wired to Avenatti in January 2015, but he hid it from Johnson for years, according to the indictment.
In each of the four cases of embezzlement alleged in the indictment, Avenatti received money on behalf of clients intended for trust accounts, misappropriated the money, and lied to the clients about collecting it.
The federal prosecutors office for Central District of California gave details about the indictment:
In the case of a victim called Client 1 in the indictment, Avenatti represented the man in a lawsuit against the County of Los Angeles that alleged, among other things, Client 1 became a paraplegic as a result of the county violating his constitutional rights. The county paid a $4 million settlement in January 2015, but within months Avenatti had drained the entire settlement payment from his law firms’ trust account and used portions of the settlement to finance his coffee business or pay personal expenses. Avenatti concealed the receipt of the settlement from Client 1 and instead gave him periodic “advances” of no more than $1,900 and paid the rent for his assisted living facility, according to the indictment.
Client 2 obtained a $3 million settlement in a matter, which included a payment of $2.75 million in early 2017. The indictment alleges that Avenatti took the bulk of this money – $2.5 million – and used it to purchase his portion of a jet, while falsely telling Client 2 that the settlement called for monthly payments over eight years. Avenatti made 11 monthly payments, making them appear to come from the individual who paid the settlement, but then Avenatti allegedly stopped paying Client 2.
Client 3 is the client-victim discussed in the criminal complaint who was to receive a $1.9 million settlement in an intellectual property dispute. Avenatti allegedly embezzled the first installment of $1.6 million in January 2018, in part by providing Client 3 with a bogus settlement agreement indicating that the payment was going to be made two months later. The indictment alleges that Avenatti used the money to pay expenses at his coffee business and to pay his own legal expenses.
Clients 4 and 5 divested shares in a company after Avenatti negotiated a “Common Stock Repurchase Agreement” for the sale of nearly $27.5 million worth of shares and then another sale of approximately $8.15 million worth of shares. When the first payment was made, Avenatti took his fees for the overall $35 million sale and sent the balance to Client 4. But when the second stock sale was finalized and the company sent nearly $8.15 million, Avenatti kept $4 million for himself and used this money to pay some of his law firm’s bankruptcy creditors, including the IRS; to provide funding for his various businesses; and to make lulling payments to Client 1 and Client 2. When Client 4 and Client 5 demanded their money, Avenatti falsely told them that the purloined $4 million already had been wired to them and provided them with a wire transfer confirmation document which actually documented the transfer of an earlier $4 million payment.
The indictment also charges Avenatti with a total of 19 tax-related offenses, alleging that he has failed to file personal income tax returns since 2010 as well as tax returns for his two law firms in which he held a controlling interest.
The indictment further alleges that Avenatti lied to an IRS revenue officer, opened a new bank account to receive funds related to credit card transactions at Tully’s coffee shops, which he owns, and directed Tully’s employees to deposit cash receipts into a bank account belonging to a car racing outfit that Avenatti also owned.
Two of the counts of bank fraud that Avenatti faces stem from an alleged scheme in which he submitted bogus financial information to obtain three loans totaling $4.1 million from The People’s Bank, a federally insured financial institution in Mississippi
Avenatti has answered the charges in a tweet that has since been deleted:
For 20 years, I have represented Davids vs. Goliaths and relied on due process and our system of justice. Along the way, I have made many powerful enemies. I am entitled to a FULL presumption of innocence and am confident that justice will be done once ALL of the facts are known.
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) April 11, 2019
As Ed Morrissey points out at Hot Air:
David and Goliath? Maybe Robin Hood is a better historical analogy, only with a hefty transactional fee if the allegations are accurate. And once again, let us revel in the irony of Avenatti’s embrace of due process after his bizarre attempt to railroad Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation process to the Supreme Court. Any appeals that reach that level should be fun fun fun.
Cross posted at The Lid