Michael Avenatti charged with 36 counts: Embezzlement, fraud, cheating on taxes

Michael Avenatti charged with 36 counts: Embezzlement, fraud, cheating on taxes

Michael Avenatti charged with 36 counts: Embezzlement, fraud, cheating on taxes

A federal grand jury has indicted attorney Michael Avenatti on 36 counts of fraud, perjury, failure to pay taxes, embezzlement and other financial crimes, the U.S. Justice Department said Thursday.

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 proving my innocence", Avenatti wrote in a tweet, accompanied by a client's testimonial praising him as "an exceptional, honest and ethical attorney".

Federal prosecutors in California announced the indictment after a grand jury found late on Wednesday that there was probable cause to pursue charges against Avenatti.

Johnson no longer stood by that statement, his lawyer said.

Adult film actress Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, speaks to media alongside Avenatti, her lawyer, outside a federal court in the Manhattan borough of New York City on April 16, 2018.

The case is U.S. v. Avenatti, 19-mj-241, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Santa Ana). After the IRS sought those unpaid taxes through a lien and levy notices to financial institutions that did business with the coffee company, Avenatti lied to IRS officials about his involvement in the chain's finances, the indictment says.

The client, referred to only as "Client 1" in the indictment, was identified as Geoffrey Johnson by his lawyer, Joshua Robbins.

Avenatti allegedly stole millions of dollars from five clients, including a paraplegic man, said U.S. Attorney Nicola Hanna. Johnson won a $4 million settlement from Los Angeles County, but Avenatti hid the money from him for years. He is accused of failing to file personal tax returns since 2010 and to pay $3.2 million in payroll taxes on his coffee business, even though he withheld some portion of this money from employee paychecks.

This comes after the 48-year-old was charged this week for filing false tax returns to secure four million dollars loans and withholding millions from a client.

On the day of his arrest, federal agents executed search warrants at Avenatti's Century City apartment, his Echo Park law office and the Yorba Linda home of Judy Regnier, the office manager at Eagan Avenatti, according to the US attorney's office. Avenatti continued to lie to his client through last month, according to the indictment.

On Thursday, asked about Avenatti's claim that the indictment was the result of a conspiracy by prominent figures Avenatti has antagonized, Hanna dismissed that allegation: "Nothing can be farther from the truth".

In November, when the Social Security Administration requested information to determine if Johnson should continue to receive disability benefits, Avenatti said he would respond, but didn't because he knew it could lead to the discovery of his embezzlement, the indictment said.

He added later: "Any claim that any monies due clients were mishandled is bogus nonsense".

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