Attorney Michael Avenatti arrested in alleged Nike extortion scheme: Prosecutors
Scott Olson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Federal prosecutors in New York and California announced charges against Michael Avenatti on Monday in separate cases targeting the former personal attorney for adult film actress Stormy Daniels.
Avenatti, who was arrested in New York City on Monday morning, stands accused of attempting to extort Nike for $20 million in New York and faces additional charges of bank- and tax-fraud in California.
Charges in the separate cases were announced almost simultaneously. Avenatti was expected to make a court appearance Monday afternoon.
In their criminal complaint filed on Sunday, prosecutors in New York wrote that Avenatti and an unnamed co-conspirator threatened to release damaging information about Nike if the sportswear giant refused to make multi-million dollar payments to them and an additional $1.5 million payment to an individual Avenatti claimed to represent.
In a phone call with lawyers for Nike last week, Avenatti and the unnamed co-conspirator allegedly said if those demands were not met, “I’ll go take $10 billion dollars off your client’s market cap. I’m not f***ing around,” according to the criminal complaint.
Earlier Monday, Avenatti tweeted plans to hold a press conference “to disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by @Nike.”
Federal investigators told ABC News that Avenatti was taken into custody approximately 15 minutes later.
In addition to the extortion charges in New York, prosecutors in California filed an affidavit over the weekend accusing Avenatti of stealing funds from a client to pay off his own expenses and “defrauded a bank in Mississippi by submitting to the lender false tax returns in order to obtain three loans totaling $4.1 million.”
Avenatti, 48, gained prominence for representing Daniels in a defamation lawsuit against President Donald Trump. In December, a federal judge in California ordered Daniels to pay Trump just under $300,000 in legal fees throwing out her defamation suit in October.
Earlier this year, Daniels announced that Avenatti no longer represented her. In a statement from Daniels and her current attorney, Clark Brewster, on Monday, the adult film star said she was “saddened but not shocked by news reports that he has been criminally charged today.”
“I made the decision more than a month ago to terminate Michael’s services after discovering that he had dealt with me extremely dishonestly and there will be more announcements to come,” Daniels said. “I ask that the media respect my decision to withhold further public comment regarding Mr. Avenatti at this time.”
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