Michael Avenatti, former attorney for Stormy Daniels, has been indicted by a federal grand jury in California on 36 counts, including embezzling from a paraplegic, court documents released Thursday show.
Avenatti, 48, faces charges of wire fraud, failure to collect and withhold payroll taxes, attempting to obstruct the IRS, failing to file tax returns, aggravated identity fraud, bank fraud and false testimony under oath during bankruptcy.
The lawyer was arrested March 25 on some of the counts, but the 61-page indictment filed by a federal grand jury late Wednesday “significantly broadens the scope of the case,” according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.
The criminal charges in 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,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna.
Avenatti wouldn’t comment beyond statements he made on Twitter.
“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 Thursday.
The charge involving the paraplegic client says Avenatti drained a $4 million settlement paid out to the client by Los Angeles County, using “portions of the settlement to finance his coffee business or pay personal expenses,” the U.S. attorney’s office statement said.
“Avenatti concealed the receipt of the settlement from Client 1 and instead gave him periodic “advances” of no more than $1,900 and paid the rent for his assisted living facility,” the statement said.
Avenatti is also accused of embezzling millions of dollars from four other clients, using the money to fund the purchase of a jet, his coffee business and his own legal and personal expenses.
He used some clients’ money to pay previous clients he had swindled and “pay some of his law firm’s bankruptcy creditors, including the IRS,” according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
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SOURCE: NBC News, Tom Winter, Andrew Blankstein, and Elisha Fieldstadt; The Associated Press