Lawyer Michael Avenatti, known for battles with Trump, indicted for financial crimes

Lawyer Michael Avenatti, known for battles with Trump, indicted for financial crimes

Lawyer Michael Avenatti, known for battles with Trump, indicted for financial crimes

A federal grand jury has indicted attorney Michael Avenatti on 36 counts of fraud, perjury, failure to pay taxes, embezzlement and other financial crimes, the U.S. Justice Department said Thursday.

The 61-page indictment claims Avenatti stole millions of dollars from five clients and used a number of shell companies and bank accounts to cover up the theft.

Those charges are echoed in today's grand jury indictments, which allege that Avenatti took a $2.75 million legal settlement owed to another client and purchased a $2.5 million private jet.

Avenatti was also charged with submitting fraudulent tax returns to get more than $4 million in loans from The Peoples Bank in Biloxi, Mississippi, in 2014.

The indictment announced Thursday in Los Angeles alleges Avenattti stole millions of dollars from clients, didn't pay taxes, committed bank fraud and lied during bankruptcy proceedings.

Avenatti also allegedly defrauded a bank in MS, submitting false tax returns to get three loans for over $4 million in 2014 for his law firm and a company he owns, Global Baristas US LLC. Prosecutors say he failed to file personal income tax returns since 2010 and did not file tax returns for his law firms, which led to his not paying millions in taxes.

"Money generated from one set of crimes was used to further other crimes", U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna told reporters.

He continued, "I intend to fully fight all charges and plead NOT GUILTY".

If Avenatti was to be convicted of all charges in the new indictment, he could face up to 335 years in prison, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Avenatti, who is free on a $300,000 bond, tweeted Thursday morning that he'd made many powerful enemies over the last two decades. The jet was seized Wednesday by federal agents.

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Attorney Ron Hodges says Avenatti, his client, asserted his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination and didn't testify.

"Avenatti concealed the receipt of the settlement from Client 1 and instead gave him periodic "advances" of no more than $1,900 and paid the rent for his assisted living facility", the statement said.

The New York prosecutors have separately accused Avenatti of trying to blackmail athletic wear maker Nike Inc for more than $20 million.

"This case is based on the facts and the documents", Hanna said.

Avenatti is possibly best known for representing adult film actress Stormy Daniels in lawsuits. The client was also denied social security benefits when Avenatti failed to respond to the administration on the client's behalf, fearing that disclosure of information the administration sought would expose Avenatti's scheme.

Those clients include "Client 1", a man who is paraplegic and who won a $4 million settlement from Los Angeles County.

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.

Two years after the settlement was reached, Avenatti allegedly helped Johnson find a real estate agent to buy a house.

Robbins, a former federal prosecutor, said he was surprised Avenatti posted the statement.

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