Michael Avenatti faces up to 335 years in prison

Michael Avenatti faces up to 335 years in prison

Celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti, who made his name as a fierce critic of President Donald Trump, was indicted by a federal grand jury in California on three dozen charges, including a new claim that he stole millions of dollars from a paraplegic client's settlement.

"Money generated from one set of crimes was used to further other crimes, typically in the form of payments created to string along victims so as to prevent Mr. Avenatti's financial house of cards from collapsing", Nicola Hanna, the USA attorney for California's Central District, said at a news conference in Los Angeles.

"I look forward to the entire truth being known as opposed to a one-sided version meant to sideline me", he wrote.

In a separate federal case in New York, Avenatti faces up to 47 more years if convicted on charges of trying to extort more than $20 million from Nike, the sportswear giant.

"It is lawyer 101", Hanna said.

In the California case, Avenatti was initially charged with bank and wire fraud, now eclipsed by a wide array of other alleged crimes. The aircraft has been seized by federal agents.

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 auto racing outfit that Avenatti owned.

If Avenatti is found guilty of all charges in the new indictment, he could be sentenced to a maximum of 335 years in prison.

The client, referred to only as "Client 1" in the indictment, was identified as Geoffrey Johnson by his lawyer, Joshua Robbins.




The 48-year-old was arrested last month on a criminal complaint in which prosecutors said he stole money from one client and used bogus tax returns to obtain a series of loans, but the indictment announced Thursday broadens those charges. Prosecutors say he submitted phony tax returns and financial statements to Peoples Bank of MS to secure more than $4.1 million in business loans.

Avenatti and his various businesses also owed millions in back taxes, and his Newport Beach law firm was reaching bankruptcy, the Times reported.

The victims in the case include a mentally ill paraplegic who won a $4 million settlement against Los Angeles County.

In November, when the Social Security Administration requested information to determine if Johnson should continue to receive disability benefits, Avenatti said he would respond, but didn't because he knew it could lead to the discovery of his embezzlement, the indictment said.

Avenatti denied the allegations in posts on Twitter.

On the day of his arrest, federal agents executed search warrants at Avenatti's Century City apartment, his Echo Park law office and the Yorba Linda home of Judy Regnier, the office manager at Eagan Avenatti, according to the USA attorney's office.

After Avenatti was questioned about the alleged embezzlement during a judgment-debtor examination in federal court March 22, the indictment said he fabricated a defence for himself.

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.

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