Michael Avenatti, the flamboyant lawyer who represented porn star Stormy Daniels in her legal battle with US President Donald Trump, has been indicted on charges of theft, fraud and tax evasion, authorities said Thursday.
Prosecutors say Avenatti stole millions of dollars from his own clients and kept millions of dollars in employment taxes that his coffee company should have paid to the Internal Revenue Service.
The 36-count indictment by a federal grand jury exposes Avenatti to up to 333 years behind bars if convicted, Nick Hanna, US Attorney for the Central District of California, said.
"In the event of his conviction, we seek to have proceeds of Mr. Avenatti's fraudulent conduct forfeited to the government. Authorities seized a USD 5 million jet that Mr Avenatti co-owned, a purchase he made from money allegedly stolen from a client," Hanna told a news briefing.
The charges he faces include tax fraud, bank fraud and bankruptcy fraud.
"The financial investigation conducted by the IRS details a man who allegedly failed to meet his obligations to the government, stole from his clients, and used his ill-gotten gains to support his racing team, the ownership of Tully's coffee shops, and a private jet," said IRS Acting Special Agent in Charge Ryan Korner.
According to that complaint, the celebrity attorney devised a scheme to extort millions of dollars from Nike by threatening to damage the company's reputation right before its quarterly earnings report and the start of the NCAA men's basketball tournament.
Avenatti, who at one point entertained the possibility of running for president, rose to fame after representing Daniels in her legal battles with Trump over hush money she received for an affair she allegedly had with Trump in 2006.
He no longer represents Daniels.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)