Avenatti Arrested for Federal Crimes in New York, California

Michael Avenatti / Getty Images
March 25, 2019

Lawyer Michael Avenatti was arrested Monday on charges in New York and California, the former related to what investigators say was a $20 million effort to extort Nike and the latter for bank and wire fraud.

The outspoken Democratic attorney, who came to prominence while representing porn actress Stormy Daniels in her litigation efforts against President Donald Trump, has been charged in New York with attempting to extort Nike by threatening to reveal damaging information about the company unless he and a client were paid off, Bloomberg reports:

Avenatti is alleged to have told Nike that he would cancel a press conference critical of the sports-apparel company only if it paid an unidentified client $1.5 million, and hired him and another California lawyer to conduct an internal investigation for $15 million to $25 million.

The same day, Avenatti was also charged in California with bank and wire fraud for embezzling money from a client and defrauding a bank with fake tax returns, according to CBS News.

News broke of the charges soon after Avenatti tweeted he would be holding a press conference to "disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by @Nike that we have uncovered. This criminal conduct reaches the highest levels of Nike and involves some of the biggest names in college basketball."

A cable news favorite last year, Avenatti spoke about possibly running for the White House and said the Democratic National Committee gave him encouragement.

MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace said Avenatti "hit a lot of the right notes" in a speech to Iowa while testing the waters on a presidential run.

He was arrested in November on suspicions of domestic violence, but he ultimately did not face criminal charges. Daniels and Avenatti parted ways last month, following a public argument where Daniels said Avenatti had filed a defamation lawsuit against Trump without her permission. She ultimately had to pay nearly $300,000 in legal fees over the case.

Avenatti has repeatedly predicted Trump will not serve out his full first term, and he also said last year Donald Trump Jr. would be indicted before the year was out.