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Michael Avenatti Stole Over $12M From Clients, New 36-Count LA Indictment Says

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Embattled celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti is facing new embezzlement, bank fraud and theft charges -- including stealing $4 million from a paraplegic man -- in a 36-count federal indictment filed in Los Angeles Thursday in connection with a case for which he was previously arrested last month.

Michael Avenatti
Michael Avenatti gestures while addressing the media outside the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse in Santa Ana, California on April 1, 2019, following his appearance at a US District Court on a criminal complaint charging him with bank and wire fraud. (Frederic J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

In a news conference Thursday morning, the Justice Department and the Internal Revenue Service announced that 36 new charges had been brought against Avenatti by a grand jury in Santa Ana.

Avenatti is accused of embezzling millions of dollars that should have gone to clients, failing to file income tax returns, failing to pay millions in taxes, submitting fraudulent loan applications and concealing assets from bankruptcy court.

"These four areas of criminal conduct alleged in the indictment are all linked to one another, because money generated from one set of crimes was used to further other crimes, typically in the form of payments designed to string along victims so as to prevent Mr. Avenatti's financial house of cards from collapsing," U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna told reporters Thursday.

Avenatti faces wire fraud charges for stealing more than $12 million in settlement money from five of his clients, including $4 million from a paraplegic man, which he used to finance a coffee business, prosecutors said. He stole another $2.5 million from another client which he used to purchase his portion of a private jet, the indictment alleges.

Avenatti pocketed $1.6 million of a $1.9 million payout in a 2018 intellectual property case without giving his client any of the money, prosecutors disclosed.

Avenatti is also accused of failing to file personal income tax returns since 2010. The indictment also alleges Avenatti gave a bank in Mississippi bogus financial data and fake personal income tax returns in order to obtain $4.1 million in loans.

Avenatti faces 10 counts of wire fraud related to the theft of money which should have been paid to clients, eight counts of willful failure to collect and pay taxes, one count of endeavoring to obstruct the administration of IRS code, four misdemeanor counts of willful failure to file his personal tax returns for the years 2014 through 2017, three misdemeanor counts of willful failure to file tax returns for the years 2015 through 2017 for his law firm, two counts of bank fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft, three counts of making false declarations in relation to bankruptcy and one count of giving false testimony under oath in bankruptcy court.

Avenatti issued a statement on Twitter Thursday morning denying the charges.

"I intend 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," he wrote.

The 48-year-old Century City attorney was first arrested March 25 in connection with this L.A. case and a separate one out of New York.

Prosecutors in New York charged Avenatti with attempting to extort Nike for up to $20 million by claiming he had evidence that Nike employees funneled illegal payments to top high school basketball prospects and their families.

Avenatti came to fame by representing adult film star Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against President Donald Trump.

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