Lawyer Avenatti Charged in California With US Fraud, Tax Crimes

Kamil Krzaczynski/Reuters

Lawyer Michael Avenatti was charged with 36 counts of fraud, tax evasion, identity theft and other financial crimes in an indictment made public by federal prosecutors in Los Angeles on Thursday.

The indictment came about three weeks after Avenatti, best known for representing adult film star Stormy Daniels in her legal battles with U.S. President Donald Trump, was arrested in New York on two separate criminal complaints filed by federal prosecutors in New York and California.

The indictment means the grand jury has found the California prosecutors have probable cause to pursue their charges. Avenatti has said he is innocent.

“I intend to fully fight all charges and plead NOT GUILTY. I look forward to the entire truth being known as opposed to a one-sided version meant to sideline me,” Avenatti wrote on Twitter on Thursday.

The Los Angeles prosecutors have accused Avenatti of misusing a client’s $1.6 million settlement to pay for his own expenses as well as those for his coffee business, and with defrauding a Mississippi bank of $4.1 million in loans by submitting false tax returns for 2011 to 2013 that inflated his income.

The New York prosecutors have separately accused Avenatti of trying to blackmail Nike Inc for more than $20 million.

Avenatti became a prominent critic of Trump and a frequent cable TV guest while representing Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. She filed a lawsuit against the president over a nondisclosure agreement that in the weeks before the 2016 U.S. presidential election kept her from discussing her claims that they had an extramarital affair 10 years earlier.

Avenatti also involved himself in the investigation of sexual abuse charges against R&B singer R. Kelly by giving the Chicago state’s attorney’s office what he said was a tape of the performer having sex with an underage girl.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen, Brendan Pierson, Gina Cherelus and Daniel Wallis; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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