In a sweeping expansion of the criminal charges against Michael Avenatti, a federal grand jury has indicted the Los Angeles lawyer on 36 counts of fraud, perjury, failure to pay taxes, embezzlement and other financial crimes.
According to the LA Times, Avenatti stole millions of dollars from five clients by using a web of shell companies and bank accounts to cover his alleged misdeeds.
Avenatti already is facing charges in NY related to an alleged scheme to extort Nike, but he also was arrested in Los Angeles last month on claims that he stole money from a client and used bogus tax returns to secure loans.
Prosecutors in the Central District targeted Avenatti with wire- and bank-fraud charges last month in a scheme that included allegations he stole funds from a client to pay off his own expenses. In one case, Avenatti is accused of stealing funds from a paraplegic client after he helped them win a legal settlement.
Avenatti is also charged with not paying personal income taxes, not paying taxes for his various businesses, including two law firms, and pocketing payroll taxes from the Tully's Coffee chain that he owned, the indictment said.
"Money generated from one set of crimes was used to further other crimes, typically in the form of payments used to string along victims so as to prevent Mr. Avenatti's financial house of cards from collapsing".
In the cases previously announced, Avenatti faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted on the California charges and up to 20 years in the NY case. Avenatti was accused of stiffing vendors and withholding money from the IRS, TheDCNF reported.
Avenatti is also facing charges in a separate federal case in NY, which alleges he tried to extort more than $20 million from Nike.More news: USA president to request Mexico asylum ruling
The maximum sentence Avenatti would face if convicted is 335 years in prison. The jet was seized Wednesday by federal agents.
In addition to Client 1, Hanna said, Avenatti followed a similar pattern with four other clients.
The indictment accuses Avenatti of lying during his June 2017 testimony in the bankruptcy case.
A lawyer for a paralyzed man says his client is destitute after attorney Michael Avenatti embezzled most of his $4 million court settlement. An indictment is expected soon in that case.
In 2018, Johnson asked Avenatti to send details of the settlement to the Social Security Administration to determine his eligibility for disability payments.
He falsely told Johnson the payments were "advances" on a county settlement payment that had not yet arrived, according to the grand jury. In New York, Avenatti faces two counts of extortion for his alleged role in what prosecutors called "an old-fashioned shakedown" of Nike.
According to the indictment, Johnson's efforts to buy a house failed because Avenatti withheld the settlement money, and Avenatti lied to the U.S. Social Security Administration about the settlement to hide the embezzlement, leading the agency to cut off Johnson's benefits.
While Avenatti suggests that the cases against him have political motivations stemming from his representation of Stormy Daniels, prosecutors note that an inquiry into Avenatti was opened prior to Donald Trump's election.
Robbins, a former federal prosecutor, said he was surprised Avenatti posted the statement.