Attorney Michael Avenatti Indicted on 36 Counts of Embezzlement, Fraud, Tax Evasion

Celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti arrives for his first hearing in Santa Ana federal court on bank and wire fraud charges

Michael Avenatti charged in 36-count federal indictment

Avenatti, 48, was indicted late Wednesday by a Southern California grand jury on a raft of additional charges following his arrest last month in NY on two related counts and for allegedly trying to shake down Nike for up to $25 million.

The U.S. attorney's office in the Central District of California scheduled a press briefing in conjunction with the IRS to "announce the filing of a 36-count indictment naming Michael Avenatti".

Avenatti allegedly built a "financial house of cards" using his stolen millions to fund his lavish lifestyle, U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said at a press conference Thursday.

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

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 breadth of Avenatti's alleged crimes is clear in the maximum sentence he would face if convicted on all counts: 335 years in prison", the Times reported. But Avenatti denied to the client that the total settlement had already been paid.

Avenatti also allegedly raided another client's settlement in 2017 to pay $2.5 million for his portion of a jet, prosecutors said.

The indictment also indicates that because Avenatti failed to respond to the U.S. Social Security Administration's request for information about the paraplegic, the client then had his Supplemental Security Income benefits discontinued in February.

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

"Any claim that any monies due clients were mishandled is bogus nonsense", Avenatti said in a tweet that contained an image of what he said was the document signed by Johnson "attesting to my ethics and how his case was handled".

In the indictment, prosecutors allege Avenatti stole millions of dollars in settlement money from five clients. He is accused of failing to file personal tax returns since 2010 and to pay $3.2 million in payroll taxes on his coffee business, even though he withheld some portion of this money from employee paychecks. In one example in the indictment, Avenatti answered "no" under oath during the proceeding when asked if his firm received any fees from the Super Bowl NFL litigation.

When the IRS later put tax levies on coffee company bank accounts to collect more than $5 million, Avenatti had Tully's employees deposit cash receipts in a little-known account for his auto racing team, authorities said.

Until last month, Avenatti had only provided $124,000 over 69 payments to Johnson, the indictment said.

Prosecutors say he submitted phony tax returns and financial statements to Peoples Bank of MS to secure more than $4.1 million in business loans.

In New York, Avenatti was accused of extorting Nike.

In all, Avenatti has been charged with 10 counts of wire fraud, 19 tax-related offenses, two counts of bank fraud, and four counts of bankruptcy fraud, while he remains free on the $300,000 bond he posted last month.

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