Attorney Michael Avenatti faces up to 333 years in prison following a federal grand jury indictment that charged him with stealing millions of dollars both from his clients and from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), prosecutors said.
Thursday's indictment from a grand jury comes two weeks after federal prosecutors in Manhattan and Los Angeles charged Avenatti, who became a household name during his representation of adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford, known professionally as Stormy Daniels, almost simultaneously in two criminal cases, unsealing complaints that alleged he attempted to extort more than $20 million from sportswear company Nike and that he committed wire and bank fraud.
According to a report by the Federalist, Avenatti appeared on news networks more than 200 times since he fell into the spotlight while representing adult film actress Stormy Daniels in her case against President Donald Trump.
"I look forward to the entire truth being known as opposed to a one-sided version meant to sideline me", he said.
Avenatti is also accused of failing to pay income taxes - in fact, the federal probe that led to Thursday's indictment began as an IRS investigation in September 2016, as officials were trying to collect debts from Avenatti's coffee business, Tully's Coffee.
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Under questioning at his confirmation hearing last August, Rettig pledged to uphold the political independence of the IRS. During a hearing on the IRS budget before the Senate Finance Committee, Rettig was pressed by Sen.
"More than four years later, Client 1 is still waiting to receive his portion of the settlement", U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said at a press conference in Los Angeles.
Avenatti used another $2.5 million in settlement money belonging to another client to help pay for a private jet, the indictment said.
Avenatti was also accused of using fraudulent tax returns to secure a bank loan.
Hanna said the Avenatti case "has nothing to do with anything political or with anything else". The aircraft was seized Wednesday, authorities said. Avenatti told his client that these payments were "advances" on the settlement.
"Mr. Avenatti received the money on behalf of clients, and simply took the money to finance his businesses and personal expenses", Hanna said.
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In a case involving one client, Avenatti allegedly funneled a $2.75 million settlement into his bank accounts and spent $2.5 million on a private airplane, the indictment said.
A vocal critic of President Donald Trump whose presence on cable television previous year made him a national figure, Avenatti now finds himself buried in legal travails on both coasts.
"Any claim that any monies due clients were mishandled is bogus nonsense", Avenatti tweeted.
Avenatti has waived his right to a preliminary hearing. The money was wired to Avenatti in January 2015, but he hid it from Johnson for years, according to the indictment. But when Johnson was in escrow to purchase the property, Avenatti falsely said he had not received the settlement funds, the indictment said. The failure to respond led to Johnson's disability benefits being cut off in February.
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And look, they have the right and that's their job but we also have the right and it's our job to protect the creative integrity of our choices.