California lawyer Michael Avenatti was arrested Monday on charges of attempted extortion, embezzlement, bank fraud, and wire fraud.
Avenatti is the same lawyer who represented porn star Stormy Daniels in her lawsuits against President Trump and Michael Cohen.
According to federal prosecutors, Avenatti attempted to extort $25 million from Nike by threatening to reveal negative publicity. He was arrested on Monday about 15 minutes after tweeting that he would soon hold a press conference accusing Nike of bribing high school and college basketball players.
The announcement was designed to impact Nike’s reputation ahead of the annual NCAA tournament.
“Avenatti’s conduct had nothing to do with valid advocacy on behalf of a client or any other kind of legitimate legal work. Instead, Avenatti used illegal and extortionate threats for the purpose of obtaining payments for himself,” said US Attorney Geoffrey Berman. “A suit and tie does not mask the fact that at its core, this was an old-fashioned shake down.”
In a separate case, Avenatti was charged with wire fraud and bank fraud after stealing $1.6 million from a client’s settlement and submitting fake tax returns to a Mississippi bank to get $4 million in loans.
Avenatti now faces up to 50 years in prison and will likely be disbarred. He also owes the IRS over $850,000 in unpaid personal income tax and penalties.
“Good news for my friend @MichaelAvenatti, if you plead fast enough, you might just get to share a cell with Michael Cohen!” tweeted President Trump on Monday.
Ironically, Avenatti appeared in federal court in New York in the same courthouse where Cohen pleaded guilty to criminal charges including the hush-money payment to Stormy Daniels.
Ms. Daniels, who had already hired a new lawyer, said she wasn’t surprised by the arrest. “Knowing what I know now about Michael, I’m saddened but not shocked by news reports that he has been criminally charged today.”
Avenatti has been forced to relinquish his US and Italian passports and must remain in New York City or travel to Los Angeles, where he will face charges on April 1st.
Editor’s note: It’s a good week for Trump, his enemies appear to be losing credibility. As for Avenetti, couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.