Attorney Michael Avenatti was charged Monday with allegedly trying to extort $20 million from Nike as well as bank and wire fraud charges for embezzling a client’s money to pay off debts and use for his own expenses, according to authorities.
Avenatti, 48, was taken into custody by the federal authorities around 12:30 p.m. in Manhattan after the lawyer was caught on recorded FBI calls making threats to a law firm working with Nike, court documents said. He faces extortion charges in New York along with wire and bank fraud charges in Los Angeles.
Avenatti allegedly tried to extract millions in payments from Nike 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 a complaint filed by the FBI in the Southern District of New York.
The U.S. attorney’s office in California also accused Avenatti of negotiating a settlement for $1.6 million to be paid in January 2018 and then using the funds to pay expenses for his coffee business, Global Baristas US LLC.
The lawyer, who up until earlier this month represented porn star Stormy Daniels in her legal actions against Donald Trump after claiming she had an affair with the president, also allegedly defrauded a Mississippi bank by submitting false tax returns in order to obtain loans totaling $4.1 million which he allegedly used for his coffee business and law firm, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Daniels said in a tweet that she was “saddened but not shocked” by Avenatti’s arrest.
“I made the decision more than a month ago to terminate Michael’s services after discovering that he had dealt with me extremely dishonestly and there will be more announcements to come,” she wrote.
“A lawyer has a basic duty not to steal from his client,” said U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California, Nick Hanna “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.”
Earlier Monday, Avenatti tweeted that there would be a press conference Tuesday “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,” he added.