High-profile attorney Michael Avenatti is facing a raft of new charges after a federal grand jury indicted him on 36 counts of stealing millions of dollars from clients, bank fraud, tax evasion, and perjury in bankruptcy proceedings.
Avenatti, who is reportedly free on a $300,000 bond, tweeted Thursday morning that he has "made many powerful enemies" throughout his legal career and intends to plead not guilty to the charges against him. "I look forward to the entire truth being known as opposed to a one-sided version meant to sideline me", Avenatti wrote in one tweet.
Avenatti, 48, was arrested March 25 in NY on the Nike charge and federal prosecutors at the time announced he also faced single counts of wire and bank fraud in Southern California, where he lives and practices law.
"It is Lawyer 101: do not steal your client's money", Hanna said. In California, it was alleged that Avenatti committed wire fraud and bank fraud to embezzle a client's money for the objective of paying off his own debts. Federal authorities seized the jet on Wednesday, prosecutors said.
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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 vehicle racing outfit that Avenatti owned.
The indictment also said Avenatti lied to the IRS about his taxes.
The indictment is consistent with The Daily Caller News Foundation's previous reporting on Avenatti's management of Tully's coffee chain.
Avenatti allegedly stole millions of dollars from five clients, including a paraplegic man, said U.S. Attorney Nicola Hanna. Avenatti was also accused of using fraudulent tax returns to secure a bank loan.
One of the clients, Geoffrey Ernest Johnson, was a mentally ill paraplegic on disability who won a $4-million settlement of a suit against Los Angeles County. Prosecutors say he failed to file personal income tax returns since 2010 and did not file tax returns for his law firms, which led to his not paying millions in taxes. But when Johnson was in escrow to purchase the property, Avenatti falsely said he had not received the settlement funds, the indictment said.
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Avenatti used another $2.5 million in settlement money belonging to another client to help pay for a private jet, the indictment said.
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.
"Any claim that any monies due clients were mishandled is bogus nonsense".
"Mr. Johnson is the victim of an appalling fraud perpetrated by the one person who owed him loyalty and honesty most of all: his own lawyer", said attorney Josh Robbins.
Avenatti attacked the allegation in a social media post Thursday.
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