Michael Avenatti Indicted on 36 Federal Charges Including Tax Fraud and Theft

Michael Avenatti

Michael Avenatti, the silver-tongued attorney who until last month represented adult film actress Stormy Daniels in her lawsuits against President Donald Trump, faces 36-count federal indictment on charges including wire fraud, perjury, failure to pay taxes and embezzlement.

Avenatti tweeted that he will plead not guilty and fight the charges.

The indictment meant the grand jury, which voted to indict Avenatti late on Wednesday, had found the California prosecutors had probable cause to pursue their charges.

The 61-page indictment, disclosed by prosecutors on Thursday, outlines years of alleged deception and an array of false statements to both federal and bank officials by a man who, over the course of the past year, has become one of the highest profile attorneys in the country.

That same day in Los Angeles, prosecutors claimed that Avenatti misused a client settlements to fund his coffee business, and also used the money to pay personal expenses.

United States Attorney Nick Hanna said that Avenatti's crimes were "linked" because they used money that he had obtained illegally to help perpetuate other crimes.

In a case involving one client, Avenatti allegedly funneled a $2.75 million settlement into his bank accounts and spent $2.5 million on a private airplane, the indictment said.

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"These four areas of criminal conduct alleged in the indictment are all linked to one another because money generated from one set of crimes appears in other sets - typically in the form of payments to lull victims and to prevent Mr. Avenatti's financial house of cards from collapsing", US attorney Nick Hanna told reporters.

Hanna also said Avenatti submitted "clearly fake" income tax form to receive a loan. In a press conference, Hanna confirmed that the jet was seized by federal authorities on Wednesday.

The county paid $4 million to resolve the case in January 2015, the USA said, but Avenatti hid the money and, over a period of several months, drained the settlement for his own benefit. "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.

In one of these cases, Avenatti represented Geoffrey Johnson, a paraplegic on disability, against the County of Los Angeles where a $4 million settlement was reached in 2015.

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 unusual public saga of the California lawyer". In one example in the indictment, Avenatti answered "no" under oath during the proceeding when asked if his firm received any fees from the Super Bowl NFL litigation.

Avenatti's tweet Thursday included a "client testimonial" bearing a signature purportedly from Johnson that said Avenatti is "an exceptional, honest and ethical attorney and I feel fortunate to have had him represent me".

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