Michael Avenatti accused of stealing millions from clients, tax dodging and other federal crimes

A federal grand jury indicted attorney Michael Avenatti on a slew of charges Wednesday night, alleging he stole millions of dollars from his clients, failed to pay his taxes and committed bank fraud.

In a 61-page indictment released Thursday by the Justice Department, officials detailed 36 charges against Avenatti, 48. The charges come weeks after he was arrested in New York on suspicion of attempting to shake down Nike for millions of dollars.

Update 1:25 p.m. EDT April 11: Authorities said Avenatti's crimes fell under four categories: embezzlement of funds meant for clients, failure to file income tax returns and to pay taxes, submitting fraudulent loan applications and concealing assets from bankruptcy court.

“(The) four areas of criminal conduct alleged i 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,” U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said Thursday.

Among the allegations were charges of wire fraud related to the theft of millions of dollars from five of his clients, including a paraplegic man.

Avenatti is accused of lying to a client who won a $4 million settlement from the County of Los Angeles after suing for violations of the client’s constitutional rights that caused “severe emotional distress and severe physical injuries, including paraplegia,” prosecutors said.

Authorities said after the suit was won, officials agreed to make a lump-sum payment of $4 million to the man, which he was entitled to, minus attorney and other fees. However, authorities said Avenatti embezzled the funds for his own use and told his client that he was waiting for the money to be paid.

The indictment alleges that between July 2015 and March 2019, Avenatti made nearly 70 payments to the man totaling $124,000, which he claimed were “‘advances’ on the settlement payment from thee County of Los Angeles.”

Update 12:10 p.m. EDT April 11: Justice Department officials released a 61-page, 36-count indictment Thursday filed against Avenatti.

Authorities are expected to provide more information about the case at a news conference Thursday.

Original report: A federal grand jury has handed down a 36-count indictment against high-profile attorney Michael Avenatti, according to multiple reports.

Authorities in the Central District of California are expected to provide more details on the charges at a news conference scheduled for noon EDT Thursday.

In an indictment obtained by The Associated Press, Avenatti was accused of stealing millions of dollars from clients, failing to pay his taxes, committing bank fraud and lying in bankruptcy proceedings.

The new charges say he embezzled from a paraplegic man and four other clients and shuffled money between several accounts to deceive them.

The charges also say Avenatti pocketed payroll taxes from employees of the Tully’s coffee chain that he owned.

The charges come just weeks after federal authorities in California and New York announced Avenatti was facing a slew of charges in two separate cases.

On March 25, authorities in the Central District of California charged Avenatti with bank and wire fraud. At almost the exact same time, authorities in the Southern District of New York announced Avenatti had been accused of trying to extort millions of dollars from Nike.

Avenatti has denied any wrongdoing. He said Thursday that he plans to "fully fight all charges and plead NOT GUILTY."

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

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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