SANTA ANA, Calif.—A week after Michael Avenatti’s shocking arrest in New York, the attorney famous for representing adult film star Stormy Daniels in legal battles against President Donald Trump will be back in federal court on April 1 to face fraud charges in California.
The brash lawyer faces a hearing in the Orange County city of Santa Ana on charges he fraudulently obtained $4 million in bank loans and pocketed $1.6 million that belonged to a client. Avenatti has long faced allegations from a former client and a former partner that he was hiding money to avoid paying what he owed.
Donald Trump Jr. wrote on Twitter:
Not at all surprising.
Michael Avenatti accused of ‘improperly keeping a $4M settlement payout away from a paraplegic man’ https://t.co/EGjXTCRKYo
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) April 1, 2019
Now, federal authorities are adding their voices to that chorus, with the specter of a long prison sentence that could be the downfall of a man who once considered challenging Trump in his re-election bid.
Avenatti, 48, is charged with wire and bank fraud. He was arrested last week in New York and released on $300,000 bail on unrelated extortion charges. He has said he expects to be exonerated.
Federal prosecutors in New York allege that Avenatti tried to shake down Nike for millions of dollars so he wouldn’t reveal allegations the apparel company paid off high school basketball players. He has denied the charge to reporters and began tweeting what he called evidence of the scandal the day after he was arrested.
In California, federal prosecutors said Avenatti filed bogus tax returns to fraudulently secure $4 million in loans from a Mississippi bank and embezzled a client’s settlement funds.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles said Monday’s hearing would likely focus on setting future court dates.
Avenatti is known for his outspoken challenge of Trump and lavish lifestyle, including renting a $100,000-a-month home in upscale Newport Beach.
Avenatti’s former law firm went through bankruptcy proceedings and was ordered to pay $10 million to a former partner, who is still seeking to collect the money.
“Two weeks ago, he contacted reporters, including two from The Times, suggesting he had a story related to a sportswear company and promising it would be big.
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) March 31, 2019
“I’m the most famous attorney in the United States, for better or worse,” he said Thursday, after setting his tweets to private.
“A lot of people love to build you up only so they can turn around and tear you down, only in the interest of clicks.” (6/6)https://t.co/A0SZcVn9g5
— Rebecca R. Ruiz (@RebeccaRuiz) March 31, 2019