The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan announced on Monday that it has filed extortion charges against Michael Avenatti, the lawyer who famously represented porn star Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against President Trump. Avenatti, who also was indicted by the U.S. attorneys office in Los Angeles on wire fraud and banking charges on Monday, was arrested in Manhattan earlier today.
According to the Manhattan indictment, Avenatti is accused of “attempting to extract more than $20 million in payments from a publicly traded company by threatening to use his ability to garner publicity to inflict substantial financial and reputational harm on the company if his demands were not met.” Avenatti allegedly approached Nike in early March after an AAU basketball coach accused the sports retailer of paying families of top high school athletes. The complaint alleges that Avenatti threatened to “release damaging information” about the company in a news conference if Nike didn’t pay him “millions of dollars” to handle the case. “I’ll go take ten billion dollars off your client’s market cap… I’m not f*cking around,” he warned Nike’s lawyers in a call that was recorded by federal investigators. “You guys know enough now to know you’ve got a serious problem,” Avenatti told them, according to the filing.
Just prior to the indictments were announced, Avenatti tweeted out that he planned to hold a press conference tomorrow to “to disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated” involving Nike.
Tmrw at 11 am ET, we will be holding a press conference to disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by @Nike that we have uncovered. This criminal conduct reaches the highest levels of Nike and involves some of the biggest names in college basketball.
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) March 25, 2019
That may have been the trigger that led to the announcement of the indictments, which came less than an hour after Avenatti’s tweet.
In the complaint filed in Los Angeles Avenatti is accused of misusing $1.6 million in funds that should have gone to a client’s settlement for “expenses for his coffee business, Global Baristas US LLC, which operated Tully’s Coffee stores in California and Washington state, as well as for his own expenses.” He also allegedly fraudulently obtained $4 million in loans by submitting false tax returns to a Mississippi bank misrepresenting his income from 2011 to 2013. According to the complaint, Avenatti didn’t even file personal tax returns with the IRS during those years.
Avenatti has denied any wrongdoing related to the indictments, but it wasn’t all that long ago that he was singing a completely different tune. ”I believe we cannot be the party of turning the other cheek,” Avenatti told an audience at an event for his pre-presidential campaign tour (or whatever it was). “I say when they go low, we hit harder.”
It’s been a rough few months for the lawyer. Several months ago an ex-girlfriend accused him of domestic violence in Los Angeles (he later reached a settlement with the city attorney’s office). Three weeks ago, a former lawyer from Avenatti’s Eagan firm accused him of defrauding a bankruptcy court by hiding millions of dollars.
The Los Angeles Times called the events of the last few months a “precipitous fall, even by today’s whirlwind standards.”
“Eight months ago, Avenatti was exploring a run for the 2020 presidential nomination, drawing large crowds and favorable reviews from Trump-loathing partisans,” the L.A. Times lamented, sounding genuinely disappointed.
Avenatti has been the darling of the mainstream media since teaming up with Stormy Daniels to go after Trump. Indeed, he has appeared at least 108 times on MSNBCNN over a two-month period,” according to a report at the Washington Free Beacon. The appearances were the equivalent of $175 Million in earned media for the disgraced lawyer.
Stormy Daniels, arguably Avenatti’s most famous client, tweeted out a statement in response to the indictments, saying she was “saddened but not surprised” by the news:
My statement regarding my former attorney Mr. Avenatti.. pic.twitter.com/9aKYCPNN6y
— Stormy Daniels (@StormyDaniels) March 25, 2019
Update 3:48 p.m. Eastern: We’ve just learned that celeb attorney and CNN star Mark Geragos has been named as a co-conspirator in the case.
BREAKING: The Wall Street Journal reports that the alleged co-conspirator with Michael Avenatti in the federal extortion case is celebrity attorney Mark Geragos.
Geragos is a CNN legal analyst and also represents Jussie Smollett.
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) March 25, 2019
You’re going to need a bigger popcorn bowl for this week’s news cycle.