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Controversial lawyer Michael Avenatti charged by federal prosecutors in New York Wednesday with scams adult-film star Stormy Daniels, the customer who powered Avenatti in the national spotlight.
Avenatti, 48, faces one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. He faces up to 22 years in prison if convicted of that cost.
According to the prosecutor, Avenatti stole “a significant portion” of a pre-Daniels was supposed to receive a book deal by sending a forged letter with Daniels’ signature to her literary agent who has instructed the agent to transfer the money to an account that is controlled by Avenatti. The lawyer then spent the money — $148,750 — “on airline tickets, hotels, car, services, restaurants and meal delivery, online retailers, payroll for his law firm and other things that he owned, and insurance.”
The indictment says that after Daniels asked Avenatti why she had not received the money, Avenatti falsely claimed he was still trying to extract payment from the publisher. Weeks later, the lawyer of the alleged “used funds recently received from another source” to pay Daniel the money she was owed.
“Michael Avenatti abused and violated, the core function of a lawyer – the duty to his client,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement. “As alleged, he used his position of trust to steal an advance on the client-book deal. As alleged, he blatantly lied and stolen from his client to his extravagant lifestyle, including to pay for, among other things, a monthly car payment on a Ferrari. Many of the doctrines which his principal Avenatti, as alleged, instead engaged in outright deception and theft, the victim, rather than to advocate for his client.”
In a statement by e-mail to Fox News, Avenatti said: “I look forward to a jury hearing all of the evidence and to pass judgment on my behavior. At no point was there is no money misused or abused. I will be fully exonerated when the relevant e-mails, contracts, sms messages and documents to be submitted.”
Avenatti also tweeted a defense of his behavior to Daniels, writing: “No money relating to Mrs. Daniels were ever abused or mistreated. They receive millions of dollars in legal services and we have huge amounts of cost. They are directly paid only $ 100.00 for everything they receive. I look forward to a jury hearing the evidence.”
Avenatti rose to fame represent Daniels when they sued to be exempted from a non-disclosure agreement in which an alleged meeting with President Donald Trump.