Attorney Michael Avenatti, who was dubbed “the creepy porn lawyer” by Tucker Carlson of Fox News and who flirted with a presidential run in 2020, has been arrested on charges concerning an alleged $20 million extortion of the athletic apparel company Nike, say federal authorities.
The celebrity lawyer who calls himself a “fighter for good,” is best known for having represented porn star Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against President Donald Trump and his former lawyer Michael Cohen regarding a non-disclosure agreement over an alleged sexual affair with Trump years ago.
According to Monday’s criminal complaint, Avenatti said he had evidence that one or more Nike employees “had authorized and funded payments to the families of top high school basketball players and/or their families and attempted to conceal the payments.”
The complaint indicates that last Wednesday, Avenatti and a witness spoke by phone with attorneys for Nike “during which Avenatti stated, with respect to his demands for payment of milions of dollars, that if those demands were not met ‘I’ll go take ten billion dollars off your client’s market cap … I’m not f***ing around.'”
“And I’m not continuing to play games. You guys know enough now to know you’ve got a serious problem and it’s worth more in exposure to me to just blow the lid on this thing.”
Avenatti “was among CNN’s heroes,” talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh noted Monday.
“Michael Avenatti, before Michael Cohen, was going to bring down Donald Trump with the assistance of Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels,” Limbaugh continued. “Everything blew up in their face like a flare thrown in their rectum.”
“Everything they have relied to get rid of Trump has blown up in their face, and it’s just delicious. Avenatti can always ask for a pardon on the federal charges. I wonder if he’s thought of that.”
The charges were announced less than an hour after Avenatti announced on Twitter he was going to hold a news conference Tuesday about Nike.
“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. This criminal conduct reaches the highest levels of Nike and involves some of the biggest names in college basketball,” Avenatti tweeted.
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. This criminal conduct reaches the highest levels of Nike and involves some of the biggest names in college basketball.
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) March 25, 2019
In addition to the Nike case, prosecutors say Avenatti is also charged in a separate case in Los Angeles where he’s accused of embezzling a client’s money “in order to pay his own expense and debts,” and of “defrauding a bank in Mississippi.”
“A lawyer has a basic duty not to steal from his client,” said U.S. Attorney for Los Angeles Nick Hanna, according to CNBC. “Mr. Avenatti is facing serious criminal charges alleging he misappropriated client trust funds for his personal use and he defrauded a bank by submitting phony tax returns in order to obtain millions of dollars in loans.”
“Avenatti also allegedly defrauded a bank in Mississippi by submitting to the lender false tax returns in order to obtain three loans totaling $4.1 million for his law firm and coffee business in 2014,” the L.A. U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
“According to the affidavit, Avenatti obtained the loans by submitting fabricated individual income tax returns (Forms 1040) for 2011, 2012, and 2013, reporting substantial income even though he had never filed any such returns with the Internal Revenue Service,” the prosecutor’s office said. “The phony returns stated that he earned $4,562,881 in adjusted gross income in 2011, $5,423,099 in 2012, and $4,082,803 in 2013, according to the affidavit. Avenatti allegedly also claimed he paid $1.6 million in estimated tax payments to the IRS in 2012 and paid $1.25 million in 2013.”
“In reality, Avenatti never filed personal income tax returns for 2011, 2012 and 2013 and did not make any estimated tax payments in 2012 and 2013. Instead of the millions of dollars he claimed to have paid in taxes, Avenatti still owed the IRS $850,438 in unpaid personal income tax plus interest and penalties for the tax years 2009 and 2010,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. “Avenatti also submitted a fictitious partnership tax return for his law firm.”
Hanna called Avenatti “a corrupt lawyer who instead fights for his own selfish interests by misappropriating close to a million dollars that rightfully belonged to one of his clients.”
He indicated the allegations “paint an ugly picture of lawless conduct and greed.”
As WND reported, Avenatti recently parted ways with Daniels.
“On February 19, we informed Stormy Daniels in writing that we were terminating our legal representation of her for various reasons that we cannot disclose publicly due to the attorney-client privilege,” Avenatti said.
“This was not a decision we made lightly and it came only after lengthy discussion, thought, and deliberation, as well as consultation with other professionals.”
He also has been a vocal critic of President Trump, and had toyed for a while with mounting his own 2020 White House bid.
“After consultation with my family and at their request, I have decided not to seek the Presidency of the United States in 2020,” Avenatti later said.
“I do not make this decision lightly – I make it out of respect for my family. But for their concerns, I would run.”
As Avenatti withdrew his name from consideration, he noted his lack of confidence in Democrats nominating someone with a “real chance” of ousting the incumbent commander in chief.
“I remain concerned that the Democratic Party will move toward nominating an individual who might make an exceptional President but has no chance of actually beating Donald Trump,” he said.
“The party must immediately recognize that many of the likely candidates are not battletested and have no real chance of winning. We will not prevail in 2020 without a fighter. I remain hopeful the party finds one.”
Avenatti was also vocal against at least one popular anchor on Fox News.
On March 16th, after Jeanine Pirro’s show was yanked from its regular broadcast slot, Avenatti tweeted: “URGENT: Please check your local white supremacy groups for @JudgeJeanine. She is missing.”
URGENT: Please check your local white supremacy groups for @JudgeJeanine. She is missing.
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) March 17, 2019
Moments after his arrest was made public, Avenatti was mocked on Twitter with a photo declaring: “MAGA,” standing for Michael Avenatti Got Arrested,” a play on Trump’s slogan of “Make America Great Again.”
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