Lawyer allegedly diverted $300,000 to fund lavish lifestyle but Avenatti denies stealing book advance on Twitter
Michael Avenatti, the attorney who rocketed to fame through his representation of the pornographic film star and producer Stormy Daniels in her battles with Donald Trump, was charged on Wednesday with stealing from her to fund his lavish lifestyle.
Federal prosecutors in New York City say Avenatti used a doctored document to divert about $300,000 that Daniels was supposed to get as an advance from a book deal, then used the money for personal and business expenses. Only half of that money was paid back, prosecutors said.
“As alleged, he blatantly lied to and stole from his client to maintain his extravagant lifestyle, including to pay for, among other things, a monthly car payment on a Ferrari. Far from zealously representing his client, Avenatti, as alleged, instead engaged in outright deception and theft, victimizing rather than advocating for his client,” a statement from the United States attorney’s office for the southern district of New York said.
Daniels is not named in the court filing, but the details of the case, including the date her book was released, indicate she is the client involved.
Avenatti denied the allegations in a variety of posts on Twitter.
“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 $100.00 for all that she received. I look forward to a jury hearing the evidence,” he wrote.
The charges pile on top of previous allegations of legal misconduct by Avenatti, who represented Daniels when she sued to be released from a non-disclosure agreement involving an alleged affair with Trump in 2006.
Avenatti was previously charged in New York with trying to extort up to $25m from the sportswear giant Nike by threatening to expose claims that the shoemaker paid off high school basketball players in order to steer them to Nike-sponsored colleges. And in Los Angeles, he is facing a multi-count federal indictment alleging that he stole millions of dollars from clients, did not pay taxes, committed bank fraud and lied during bankruptcy proceedings.
Avenatti has denied the allegations against him on both coasts, saying he expects to be exonerated. The Los Angeles charges alone carry a potential penalty of more than 300 years in prison.
Daniels initially hired Avenatti to handle a lawsuit she filed last year in which she sought to invalidate the non-disclosure agreement she had signed with Trump’s then lawyer Michael Cohen in exchange for $130,000.
The money was supposed to buy her silence about an alleged affair with Trump, who denies that it took place. In August, Cohen pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws in connection with the payment.
Daniels first publicly raised concerns about Avenatti’s conduct in November. In a statement, she said Avenatti had launched a fundraising effort to raise money for her legal case without telling her. She also said he had filed a defamation lawsuit against Trump, on her behalf, against her wishes.
At the time, Avenatti responded that he was still Daniels’s “biggest champion”.
The defamation case initiated by Avenatti against Trump backfired, with a judge ordering her to pay the president’s legal bills.
In March Daniels said she had fired Avenatti a month earlier after “discovering that he had dealt with me extremely dishonestly”. She did not elaborate.
Read more: www.theguardian.com