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Michael Avenatti Allegedly Stole $300,000 From Stormy Daniels

Federal prosecutors slapped the attorney and onetime cable news fixture with two new indictments.

by David Uberti
May 22 2019, 7:45pm

Michael Avenatti has two more reasons to say basta.

Federal prosecutors in New York slapped the attorney and onetime cable news fixture with a pair of indictments Wednesday for his alleged extortion attempt of Nike and allegedly defrauding a former client believed to be the adult film star Stormy Daniels.

Filed in the Southern District of New York, the latter indictment alleges that Avenatti impersonated an unnamed client to cash in on the advance of a book deal he helped broker in 2018. Avenatti allegedly used the funds to pay employees of his law firm and failing coffee business, in addition to covering hotel and travel expenses and leasing a Ferrari.

The indictment claims Avenatti stole about $300,000 in total — and has since repaid just half of it. Prosecutors charged him with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

“Michael Avenatti abused and violated the core duty of an attorney – the duty to his client,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a statement. “Far from zealously representing his client, Avenatti, as alleged, instead engaged in outright deception and theft, victimizing rather than advocating for his client.”

The indictment does not name Daniels as the client in question. But the timeline given fits squarely with his representation of the adult film star, who has graphically described an alleged affair with President Trump. The Wall Street Journal has subsequently reported that the unnamed client in the indictment is indeed Daniels.

The indictment adds another layer to Avenatti’s mounting legal troubles. In March, U.S. attorneys in Los Angeles charged Avenatti for embezzling a client’s money to cover debts. Avenatti was also arrested that month on charges that he attempted to extort Nike by releasing information about its sponsorship of high school basketball players.

Avenatti, who parlayed Daniels’ case into nonstop cable appearances and a giant Twitter following — where he frequently used “basta,” Spanish for “enough,” as a tagline — has denied wrongdoing related to the charges.

"No monies relating to Ms. Daniels were ever misappropriated or mishandled,” he wrote on Twitter. “She received millions of dollars worth of legal services and we spent huge sums in expenses. She directly paid only $100.00 for all that she received. I look forward to a jury hearing the evidence.”

Cover: Adult film actress/director Stormy Daniels (left) and attorney Michael Avenatti attend the 2019 Adult Video News Awards at The Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on January 26, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)