Indictment Says Attorney Michael Avenatti Stole Millions

Michael Avenatti's jet which was seized at Santa Barbara Airport on Wednesday

Celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti, who is already accused of federal financial crimes, has been indicted for 36 counts of embezzlement and fraud by a California federal grand jury, US prosecutors announced Thursday.

He continued, "I intend to fully fight all charges and plead NOT GUILTY. I look forward to the entire truth being known as opposed to a one-sided version meant to sideline me", Avenatti wrote on Twitter.

In New York, Avenatti faces two counts of extortion for his alleged role in what prosecutors called "an old-fashioned shakedown" of Nike.

The 61-page indictment, disclosed by prosecutors on Thursday, outlines years of alleged deception and an array of false statements to both federal and bank officials by a man who, over the course of the past year, has become one of the highest profile attorneys in the country.

The indictment said Avenatti stole millions of dollars from five clients through a group of shell companies and bank accounts to make it more hard to track.

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

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Avenatti allegedly stole millions of dollars from five clients, including a paraplegic man, said U.S. Attorney Nicola Hanna. In California, it was alleged that Avenatti committed wire fraud and bank fraud to embezzle a client's money for the objective of paying off his own debts.

Avenatti was also charged with submitting fraudulent tax returns to get more than $4 million in loans from The Peoples Bank in Biloxi, Mississippi, in 2014. "I am entitled to a FULL presumption of innocence and am confident that justice will be done once ALL of the facts are known", he said.

In November, when the Social Security Administration requested information to determine if Johnson should continue to receive disability benefits, Avenatti said he would respond, but didn't because he knew it could lead to the discovery of his embezzlement, the indictment said. In a press conference, Hanna confirmed that the jet was seized by federal authorities on Wednesday.

"Any claim that any monies due clients were mishandled is bogus nonsense", Avenatti tweeted.

They threatened to go public unless Nike hired Avenatti to conduct an internal investigation for $15 million to $25 million, and paid an additional $1.5 million to the client, according to prosecutors. 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.

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. According to the indictment, one of the clients Avenatti allegedly defrauded was paraplegic.

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