Michael Avenatti, the huckster/lawyer who rose to prominence after representing former Trump paramour Stormy Daniels, stands accused of stealing Daniels’ book advance, according to a federal indictment that was unsealed on Wednesday. The indictment alleges that Avenatti ripped Daniels off to the tune of $300,000 by having her publisher send book payments to fraudulent bank accounts he set up without her knowledge. The court documents state that Avenatti then used the diverted funds to pay for such items as the $3,900 monthly lease payment on a Ferrari, dry cleaning, meal deliveries, employee payroll at his own law firm, hotels, flights, and payroll for the coffee business he apparently owned. Avenatti faces charges of fraud and aggravated identity theft in addition to the federal charges he faces for allegedly attempting to extort millions from Nike.
“Michael Avenatti abused and violated the core duty of an attorney—the duty to his client,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said. “As alleged, he used his position of trust to steal an advance on the client’s book deal. As alleged, he blatantly lied to and stole from his client to maintain his extravagant lifestyle, including to pay for, among other things, a monthly car payment on a Ferrari. Far from zealously representing his client, Avenatti, as alleged, instead engaged in outright deception and theft, victimizing rather than advocating for his client.”
The indictment accuses Avenatti of forging his client’s signature on a letter sent to her literary agent asking the agent to send Daniels’s payments for her book Full Disclosure, in which she described her interactions with Trump, to an account Avenatti controlled. Daniels claims to have had no knowledge of the account and accuses Avenatti of gaslighting her by saying that she should confront her publisher over payments she never received.
Avenatti is accused of repeatedly lying to Daniels when he promised her he would pursue the lapsed payments from her publisher, told her he would sue the publishing house on her behalf to recoup the lost payments he allegedly pocketed, and even fabricated a story about how Daniels’s publisher was refusing to hand over one payment because of low book sales.
When Daniels had finally had enough, the court docs state that Daniels texted Avenatti telling him that she was going to fire her lit agent, send a certified letter to her publisher to recoup the payments owed to her, and then post the letter “online for fun.” Avenatti is then alleged to have called Daniels on the phone and talked her out of that plan. Daniels allegedly discovered the forged wire instructions letter in February when she reached out to the publisher herself without Avenatti acting as an intermediary.
The embattled attorney has denied all charges.
“No monies relating to Ms. Daniels were ever misappropriated or mishandled,” Avenatti said in a statement. “She received millions of dollars worth of legal services and we spent huge sums in expenses. She directly paid only $100.00 for all that she received. I look forward to a jury hearing the evidence.” He added: “At no time was any money misappropriated or mishandled. I will be fully exonerated once the relevant emails, contracts, text messages, and documents are presented.”
Avenatti stands accused of defrauding or embezzling from at least six clients, including a client who was disabled. Come on, man.