connectVideoMichael Avenatti arrested on federal charges of extortion, fraud and wire fraud
The United States attorney for the Southern District of New York cost of lawyer Michael Avenatti, an attempt to extract more than $20 million in payments from Nike.
Michael Avenatti, the former attorney for the adult-film star Stormy Daniels, was accused Monday by federal prosecutors in New York of “an old-fashioned shakedown” by trying to extort between $15 and $25 million of sportswear giant Nike, a part of a string of bomb claims against the celebrity lawyer.
Avenatti, who briefly considered a bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, was also charged with wire fraud and fraud in a separate case from California. He was taken into custody and is expected to appear in court later Monday in New York City.
The prosecutors said Avenatti tried to extort Nike “by threatening to his ability to garner publicity to bring significant financial and reputation damage on the company if its demands were not met.”
Alan Dershowitz on the arrest of Michael Avenatti for trying to extort $20 million from Nike
The prosecutors have charged Stormy Daniels’ former lawyer, Michael Avenatti with extortion and bank and wire fraud; analysis of Alan Dershowitz, Harvard law professor emeritus.
“As alleged, Michael Avenatti approached Nike last week with a list of financial requirements in exchange for covering allegations of misconduct on behalf of the company, the” FBI Assistant Director William Sweeney Jr. said in a statement. “The high price tag of $1.5 million of the allowance for Avenatti to the customer and to the top of tens of millions of dollars for the legal services of his company services, Nike never requested. This is nothing more than a simple extortion”
The counts against Avenatti in the New York case, extortion, transmission of interstate communications with intent to extort, conspiracy to transmit interstate communications with intent to extort, conspiracy to commit extortion. He faces up to 47 years in prison if convicted on all charges.
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At a press conference Monday, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said Avenatti used illegal tactics and threats in an effort to obtain millions of dollars for himself. He claimed that if Nike did not meet its requirements, “the company might die.”
“Our system of justice requires and is dependent on lawyers, members of the bar, not simply to follow the law, but uphold the finest principles and ideals,” Berman told reporters. “But when lawyers use their law licenses, such as weapons, such as a disguise to extort payments for themselves, they are no longer acting as lawyers. They behave like criminals, and they will be held responsible for their behavior.”
According to the New York complaint against him, Avenatti and an unknown co-conspirator a met with lawyers for Nike on 19 March and “threatened to release harmful information” as the company did not agree with the creation of multi-million dollar payments to them, as well as an additional $1.5 million payment to a customer Avenatti claimed to represent.
Michael Avenatti accused of attempting to extract $20 million from Nike
U. S. attorney for the Southern District of New York submits a complaint against attorney Michael Avenatti and details of the alleged extortion scheme.
He has reportedly told the lawyers that if its demands are not met, he would “go and take ten billion dollars out of your client’s market cap … I’m not f—power-up source”
The complaint said Avenatti threatened to hold a press conference on the eve of Nike’s quarterly earnings call and the start of the NCAA tournament to announce allegations of misconduct by Nike employees.
“Nike will not be extorted or to hide the information that is relevant to a government investigation,” the company said in a statement obtained by Fox News. “Nike has worked with the government investigation into the NCAA basketball for more than a year. When Nike became aware of this case, Nike immediately be reported to the federal prosecutors. When Mr. Avenatti tried to extort Nike on this case, Nike with the help of an external consultant at Boies Schiller Flexner, helped with the research.
“Nike believes in ethical and fair play, both in business and sport, and will continue to assist the officers of justice.”
The co-conspirator was identified as a lawyer licensed to practice in the state of California, and it was also known for the representation of celebrity and public figure clients.” Meanwhile, the alleged client is identified as a coach for an amateur athletic union men’s basketball program, based in California.
Earlier Monday, Avenatti tweeted he would be holding a press conference Tuesday to “give a big high school/college basketball scandal committed by @Nike that we have discovered. This criminal conduct reached the highest levels of Nike and includes some of the biggest names in college basketball.”
Meanwhile, in a separate press conference in California, federal researchers announced additional criminal charges against the attorney for a separate matter. In that case, Avenatti was accused of embezzling a client’s settlement money to pay his own expenses and debts — as well as those of his coffee business and law firm.
The Prosecutor of the V. S. Nick Hanna said Avenatti was charged with wire fraud and tax fraud as a result of a two year IRS tax investigation after he allegedly obtained $4.1 million in loans for his law firm and tea business of a Mississippi bank by using false tax returns stating that he had made, $4,562,881 in 2011, $5,423,099 in 2012, and $4,082,803 in 2013. Avenatti also stated that he had paid more than $1 million in estimated taxes to the TAX authorities in 2012 and 2013, when, according to the prosecutor, he actually owed the IRS $850,438 plus interest and penalties for the years 2009 and 2010. In addition, the authorities say, Avenatti paid no personal taxes for 2011, 2012 and 2013 and paid no estimated taxes in 2012 and 2013.
“[Avenatti] is a corrupt lawyer who is instead fighting for his own selfish interest,” Hanna said, adding that the allegations against the lawyer: “paint an ugly picture of lawlessness and greed.”
Avenatti was known as a lawyer of Daniel, the adult-film actress who alleged she had an affair with President Trump in 2006, while his wife, Melania was pregnant with the couple’s son, Barron. In the last year, Daniels and Avenatti was well-known names in their fight against the Trumpet, dominating the cable news shows for months, and the challenge of the president in the interviews.
Daniels gave a statement Monday that she was not “shocked” by the charges against Avenatti.
“Knowing what I know now about Michael Avenatti, I am saddened, but not shocked by the news reports that he has been criminally charged today,” Daniels said. “I made the decision more than a month ago to terminate Michael’s services after the discovery that he had dealt with me very unfairly, and there will be more announcements to come.”
Charles Harder, who represented President Asset in the Daniels case, told Fox News Avenatti, the arrests marked “a great day for the American justice system.”
Before Avenatti began to represent Daniels in February 2018, he was virtually unknown outside of the California legal community. However, in a matter of months he was known as a no-holds-barred attorney with a media-style — and a penchant for tweeting — similar to Trump’s.
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On Monday, Berman strongly denied that politics played a role in the case, noting that researchers ‘ received the call six days ago by the victim, say that three was extortionist threats against them and that is how we became involved in this case.
Avenatti short warm 2020 presidential run as a Democrat-he even visited Iowa at a given moment — but eventually ruled that out. He was also involved in another high-profile case represents dozens of parents and children were separated from them on the border of the V. S. as a result of the Trump administration’s immigration policy. More recently he was yet to represent women who said they were sexually abused by R&B star R. Kelly.
In the California case, Avenatti faces up to 50 years in prison, while in the New York case, the charges carry a possible penalty of 47 years in prison. Hanna said that they coordinated with the prosecutors in New York, for the execution of both arrest warrants at the same time, but emphasized that they were two separate cases that happened to coincide.
Fox News’ Lee Ross and Marta Dhanis and The Associated Press contributed to this report.