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Michael Avenatti faces 335 years in prison and then some

Things are looking grim for Michael Avenatti.
Reuters/Mike Nichols
Things are looking grim for Michael Avenatti.
Published This article is more than 2 years old.

Attorney Michael Avenatti became a household name when he represented porn actress Stormy Daniels in a lawsuit against US president Donald Trump. Last year, he even briefly seemed like a presidential hopeful himself. Now, Avenatti no longer represents the actress, and—if he is convicted for the numerous crimes he’s charged with in a new 61-page federal indictment (pdf) by a California grand jury—he won’t ever represent anyone again.

Avenatti faces a maximum penalty of 335 years in prison for 36 counts of wire fraud, tax fraud, bank fraud, and bankruptcy fraud, and aggravated identity theft. And that’s just in this one case. The attorney was also charged in March in New York federal court for allegedly attempting to extort money from Nike—an effort to force a settlement on behalf of a client in exchange for silence, which prosecutors called a “shakedown.” In that case, he faces a maximum penalty of 47 years in prison, meaning he could technically be looking at 382 years, or nearly four centuries, in lock-up if convicted on all charges. But multiple sentences are often served concurrently and Avenatti isn’t likely to be given the maximum punishment on every single count in both cases, even if found guilty of them all.

The latest charges against Avenatti also involve his work as an attorney. In four embezzlement cases alleged in the indictment, “Avenatti received money on behalf of clients into client trust accounts, misappropriated the money, and lied to the clients about receiving the money or, in one case, claimed that the money had already been sent to the client,” according to a statement by the Department of Justice. The lawyer purportedly took money that was paid to him as part of client settlements, including a paraplegic client who received $4 million from Los Angeles County, to fund his personal expenses, a coffee business, a share in a private jet, and his own legal expenses (which are mounting). He also is accused of wire fraud in relation to these expenditures.

Avenatti was charged with 19 counts of tax fraud, related to both business and personal taxes. The attorney hasn’t always filed personal taxes, according to the DOJ, and has not filed various business taxes for his two law firms over the years, in addition to allegedly committing tax fraud in relation to a coffee business, Global Baristas US.

He’s also accused of two counts of bank fraud stemming from an alleged scheme in which he submitted bogus financial information to obtain three loans totaling $4.1 million from The People’s Bank, a federally insured financial institution in Mississippi. Prosecutors also argue that Avenatti committed aggravated identity theft, misusing the name of a tax preparer in relation to the bank fraud scheme. He additionally faces three counts of making false declarations in relation to a bankruptcy, and one count of giving false testimony under oath in bankruptcy court.

Trump, who in September called Avenatti a “lowlife,” is no doubt pleased with the development.

His son Donald Trump Jr., who had been vocal about his distaste for Avenatti as well, tweeted about the indictment, saying it was “sad that this is not at all shocking.”

Avenatti responded to the charges, too. He tweeted, “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.”

Read the full text of the indictment here:

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