Michael Avenatti Could Face 330 Years in Prison, Report Says

Celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti arrives for his first hearing in Santa Ana federal court on bank and wire fraud charges

Celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti, who is already accused of federal financial crimes, has been indicted on 36 counts of embezzlement and fraud by a California federal grand jury, US prosecutors announced Thursday.

In all, Avenatti has been charged with 10 counts of wire fraud, 19 tax-related offenses, two counts of bank fraud, and four counts of bankruptcy fraud, while he remains free on the $300,000 bond he posted last month. In each case, Avenatti was accused of receiving money on behalf of his clients, misusing the funds, hiding them from clients and lying to those clients about receiving the money.

The indictment also accuses Avenatti of various tax crimes.

When the IRS started garnishing the company's bank accounts, the indictment says, Avenatti ordered employees to deposit the stores' cash and credit-card receipts in new accounts under a new company name.

Avenatti used another $2.5 million in settlement money belonging to another client to help pay for a private jet, the indictment said.

Prosecutors say that Mr. Avenatti could face a maximum of 333 years in federal prison if convicted on all charges against him.

Weeks later, the U.S. Attorney's office for the Central District of California has scheduled a press conference to announce further charges against Avenatti.

Last month, Avenatti was named as a defendant in two other indictments from federal prosecutors in NY and Los Angeles.

The embattled attorney was previously indicted in California on bank- and wire-fraud charges and in NY on extortion charges related to an alleged attempt to blackmail Nike, but the indictments handed down Thursday represent a dramatic escalation of his legal troubles: They could result in a maximum sentence of 335 years in prison.

A jet co-owned by Avenatti, a frequent critic of President Donald Trump, was seized on April 10 as part of an investigation, AP reported. But when Johnson was in escrow, Avenatti falsely said he had not received the settlement funds, the indictment said.

Those clients include "Client 1", a man who is paraplegic and who won a $4 million settlement from Los Angeles County.

Avenatti has denied stealing from clients and tweeted a statement signed by Johnson praising him as an "honest and ethical attorney".

His lawyer, John Littrell, said an indictment means nothing.

Avenatti is possibly best known for representing adult film actress Stormy Daniels in lawsuits. Avenatti is accused of having the money wired to him and hiding it from the victim for years.

In November, when the U.S. 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.

Avenatti was indicted late Wednesday on the charges following his arrest in NY last month for allegedly trying to shake down Nike for up to $25 million. He responded "no" when he was asked whether Eagan Avenatti had received legal fees when it was representing ticket holders who sued the National Football League over seating snafus at the 2011 Super Bowl in Texas.

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