NEW YORK (AP/CBSLA) — Prosecutors say embattled Los Angeles attorney Michael Avenatti was over $15 million in debt when he tried to extort up to $25 million from Nike, while Avenatti’s lawyers say the money he legally requested to conduct an internal probe of the sportswear giant was a bargain.
Both sides made the assertions in court papers filed late Tuesday in advance of a Jan. 22 criminal trial in Manhattan, giving U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe time to decide what the jury will be allowed to hear and see.
For Avenatti, it is the first of three scheduled trials in the next five months. He has denied all charges.
Criminal charges against him in other cases include allegations in New York that he defrauded ex-client porn star Stormy Daniels out of proceeds of a book deal and charges in Los Angeles that he defrauded clients of millions of dollars.
In their submission, federal prosecutors said they plan to show the jury that Avenatti owed “conservatively, in excess of $15 million.” Those debts were owed to former clients, one of more former law partners, both of his former spouses for child and spousal support in arrears and a lawyer the government has identified only as “Attorney-1,” they said.
Avenatti told The Associated Press on Wednesday that “any claim that I was $15 million in debt is ridiculous, absurd and laughable.”
“I look forward to the upcoming trial at which time I will be exonerated and the truth will be known,” he said.
On March 25, Avenatti was arrested in two separate federal cases out of Santa Ana and New York. The Santa Ana case alleges that he stole more than $12 million in settlement money from five of his clients, including Johnson, failed to file income tax returns, failed to pay millions in taxes, submitted fraudulent loan applications and concealing assets from bankruptcy court.
The New York case alleges that Avenatti attempting to extort more than $20 million from athletic equipment giant Nike over claims he had evidence that Nike employees funneled illegal payments to top high school basketball prospects and their families.
In April, a Santa Ana federal grand jury brought 36 counts of embezzlement, bank fraud and theft against Avenatti, with one of those counts alleging that the 48-year-old Century City attorney had stolen $4 million from Geoffrey Johnson, a paraplegic man with mental health issues.
Avenatti came to fame by representing adult film star Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against President Donald Trump.
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