A federal grand jury in Los Angeles indicted celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti on 36 counts, including embezzlement, wire fraud, tax evasion and bank fraud connected to his alleged theft of tens of millions of dollars.
Avenatti became a prominent critic of Trump and a frequent guest on cable television news while representing Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. After all, the Lawyer of the Year contest here is about the lawyer who best dominates the year's news, and for all the attention Michael Avenatti received combating Donald Trump to secure last year's title, this year he may make as many waves defending himself.
"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 wrote on the social media platform. Check back for updates.
The indictment appears to pertain to another case, but federal officials are scheduled to provide further details at an afternoon news conference, the AP reported, citing a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Avenatti embezzled settlement funds and proceeds of other matters he handled from five clients and doled out small portions of what they were due to "lull" them into thinking they were getting what they were owed, prosecutors said.More news: Kirstjen Nielsen resigns as secretary of Department of Homeland Security, Trump says
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Avenatti waived his right to a preliminary hearing in federal court in Santa Ana.
Prosecutors say Avenatti misled clients and misused their funds to pay personal and legal expenses, to finance a coffee shop business he also ran and to pay for his share of a Honda private jet, according to the indictment.
The indictment claimed that he lied to an IRS revenue officer, opened a new bank account to receive funds related to credit card transactions at the coffee shops, and directed employees to deposit cash receipts into a bank account belonging to a vehicle racing outfit that Avenatti owned.
The New York prosecutors have separately accused Avenatti of trying to blackmail athletic wear maker Nike Inc for more than $20 million.
Following Avenatti's arrest last month, The Washington Post's Devlin Barrett and Elise Viebeck reported that it marked "the latest and most remarkable chapter in the odd public saga of the California lawyer". Trump has denied having an affair with Daniels. He was charged in a criminal complaint in Santa Ana, California, on March 25 for stealing a different client's $1.6 million settlement to cover his own expenses, as well as cheating a MS bank.
The IRS reportedly began investigating Avenatti more than a year ago, though it's also been noted that that attorney "began to run afoul of the IRS nearly a decade ago" by failing to file income tax returns. One of the clients whose money Avenatti stole was a mentally ill paraplegic who won $4 million from Los Angeles County.