From CNN’s Choice for 2020 to Possible Jail and Disbarment
I never thought I’d see the day when Michael Avenatti was finished squawking on CNN about porn stars, lawsuits, and President Trump. Fortunately, that day is finally here thanks to three federal indictments filed in New York and California and a 573-page application filed by the California State Bar seeking to disbar Avenatti from the practice of law.
Federal indictments allege the disgraced lawyer attempted to extort Nike, concocted a scheme to steal $300,000 from Stormy Daniels and committed more financial crimes than Ken Jennings could name on Jeopardy. Despite all those indictments, the “celebrity” attorney continues to maintain his innocence.
Chances of multi-state indictments: Rare
Contrary to popular belief, it’s rare for someone to be indicted by a grand jury in different states on a monthly basis. It’s even less common for that person to have seriously believed he could beat President Trump in the 2020 election.
Nevertheless, I wanted to see for myself what the allegations were based upon, so I reviewed the nearly 600 pages of emails, text messages, bank records, affidavits and other evidence included in the State Bar’s public filing. After finishing my review, I decided I’d ask Michael about the documents and to my surprise, Avenatti was gracious enough to take the time out of his day and respond to my message:
Anyways, the information contained in the disbarment filing alleged perhaps the most egregious attorney misconduct I have ever seen. For purposes of brevity, here are the Top 10 shocking revelations discovered in my review of the documents filed against Michael Avenatti:
10. Stealing Paraplegic’s $4 Million Settlement
On January 21, 2015, Avenatti reached a $4 million settlement on behalf his paraplegic client, Geoffrey Johnson. While the indictment does not identify Johnson by name, the forthcoming allegations contained in the indictment mirror those as reported by U.S. News. According to the indictment, Avenatti told Johnson, that:
The settlement had to remain confidential;
L.A. County could not make the payment in one lump-sum; and
A “Special Needs Trust” needed to be established in order for the settlement funds to be transferred.
These were all lies. The settlement did not require confidentiality, Los Angeles County agreed to transfer the funds in one lump-sum and there was no “Special Needs Trust” prerequisite for such transfer to take place. On January 25, 2015, L.A. County wired Michael’s firm, Eagan Avenatti, LLP, $4,000,000.00 in settlement funds and the money was deposited into the firm’s trust account. By July 6, 2015, the entire $4 million was gone.
From July 6, 2015 until March 2019, Avenatti concealed the fact he embezzled Johnson’s entire settlement by claiming the County had not yet established the fake “Special Needs Trust.” Avenatti ensured he kept Johnson at bay and prevented Johnson from pushing the matter by periodically giving Johnson small “advances” ranging from $1,000-$1,900 and making various payments to Johnson’s assisted living facilities.
A true wolf in sheep’s clothing, Avenatti ensured Johnson was aware of his responsibility to pay Avenatti back the cumulative “advances” totalling around $124,000 despite knowing full well he already stole millions from the disabled man.
9. Sabotaging Johnson’s Attempt to Purchase a Home
Presumably tired of assisted living facilities, Johnson asked Avenatti to help him purchase a home. Avenatti assured Johnson he would find a real estate broker. Avenatti further reassured Johnson that he would be able to use his “expected settlement proceeds” for the purchase.
For as long as he could, Avenatti led Johnson to believe the sale was going through and the settlement funds would be “coming soon.” In fact, Avenatti waited so long Johnson went into escrow on the home, only to learn the sale fell through because L.A. County “still had not approved the Special Needs Trust.” Of course, this is not why the sale fell through. The end result was Johnson never got his home.
8. Intentionally Preventing Johnson from Receiving SSI Benefits
Avenatti tried to ruin Johnson’s life for the third and final time in November 2018;. This was more than threeyears after Johnson should have become a multi-millionaire.
On November 26, 2018, Avenatti learned Johnson had applied for SSI benefits. In response, Avenatti contacted Johnson and offered to respond to the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) request for information on Johnson’s behalf. Avenatti had to intervene because he knew the SSA’s request for information would prompt Johnson to disclose the $4 million settlement Avenatti stole from him in 2015. This would have exposed Avenatti. Since Avenatti was in control, that wasn’t going to happen. In the end, Avenatti simply didn’t respond and Johnson lost his SSI benefits.
7. Embezzling $2 Million from Miami Heat’s Hassan Whiteside to Purchase Private Jet
As reported by Bleacher Report, Avenatti embezzled nearly $2 million of settlement funds paid to his ex-girlfriend and client, Alexis Gardner, by Hassan Whiteside who was a center for the Miami Heat basketball team. According to the indictment, Whiteside was to pay $2,750,000 by January 28, 2017 and another $250,000 by November 1, 2020 contingent upon unspecified terms.
Gardner was to receive $1,750,000 of the initial $2.75 million payment, minus costs. The other $1 million was actually Avenatti’s money pursuant to a 33.33% contingency attorney’s fee, which is based off of total $3 million settlement figure. However, Gardner did not know she was entitled to $1,750,000 less costs from Whiteside’s initial lump-sum payment because Avenatti never told her or presented her with the settlement agreement.
Instead, Avenatti falsely represented to Gardner that Whiteside would make an initial lump-sum payment, the entirety of which would cover Avenatti’s attorney’s fees and costs. Thus, Avenatti implied the lump-sum payment was $1 million, not $2.75 million afterwhich Whiteside would make 96 payments over the next 8 years. All of which Avenatti assured Gardner would be paid directly to her.
On January 25, 2017, Avenatti caused the initial $2.75 million lump-sum payment to be transferred to his firm’s trust account. Avenatti then transferred $2.5 million of the $2.75 million to a law firm he tasked with purchasing a $2.5 million HondaJet for Avenatti’s company “Passport 420, LLC.”
From March 2017 until June 2018, Avenatti made 11 payments to Gardner totaling $194,000, representative of the “monthly payments” Gardner believed to be part of the settlement agreement. From June 2018 until March 2019, Avenatti stopped making monthly payments to Gardner, claiming Whiteside was not complying with the settlement agreement.
On December 22, 2017, Avenatti reached a $1,9,000,000 settlement on behalf of his client, Greg Barela. Pursuant to the settlement agreement, a $1.6 million lump-sum payment would be wired to Avenatti’s trust account. Then four payments of $100,000 each would be wired on January 10 of 2019-2022. After Avenatti collected his $760,000 attorney’s fee and associated costs, Barela was to receive the remaining balance and all subsequent $100,000 payments.
On December 28, 2017, Avenatti presented Barela with an altered settlement agreement that stated $1.6 million was due by March 10, 2018 and subsequent annual payments of $100,000 on March 10, 2019-2022. After Barela signed the altered agreement, Avenatti emailed opposing counsel a copy of the the signature page, omitting the altered agreement.
On January 5, 2018, Avenatti received the initial $1.6 million lump-sum payment pursuant to the actual settlement agreement.
By January 31, 2018, Avenatti dwindled $1.6 million down to $216,288.97:
By March 14, 2018, Avenatti had spent all but $600 of the $1,600,000 despite only being entitled to his $750,000 attorney’s fee. He eventually spent that, too. From April 2018 to November 2018, Avenatti kept Barela at bay by “advancing” a total of $130,000 while Avenatti “waited for the transfer from the Defendant corporation.”
6. Falsifying Income Tax Returns to Obtain $4.1 Million in Loans
Fun Fact: Michael Avenatti doesn’t only practice law. He also dabbled in the coffee business. Avenatti owns Global Baristas, LLC (GB LLC), also known as “Tully’s Coffee” which operates in California and Washington state. This indictment alleges Avenatti falsified his personal income tax returns to secure loans on behalf of GB LLC. According to counts 30 and 31, Avenatti sought 2 loans from The People’s Bank in Mississippi totaling $3.25 million:
To secure the loans, however, the indictment alleges Avenatti provided a copy of his 2011 personal income tax return which Avenatti purportedly made $4,562,881 and paid $1,506,707 in taxes to the IRS. That led to another problem for Avenatti as he never filed a 2011 tax return. Ironically, the grand jury believed there was probable cause. Not only did Avenatti fail to pay the IRS any income tax in 2011, he already owed the IRS $850,438 in unpaid taxes from 2009 and 2010. Those were the last years he filed tax returns.
5. Ex-Wife Entitled to More than $2 Million in Spousal & Child Support
According to Daily Mail, Avenatti’s ex-wife claimed the “dead bead dad” owed $2,053,332 in child support and he hasn’t seen his son since January 2019.
Judge Vu confirmed Avenatti did in fact owe Storie more than $2 million. However, Judge Vu also conceded Storie was inadvertently overcharging Avenatti a whopping $9,150. ‘This resulted in a miscalculation of approximately $350 in excess interest on total child support arrearages of $146,154.73 and approximately $8,800 in excess interest on total spousal support arrearages of $1,606,481.95,’ the judge wrote. ‘The error is less than one half of one percent of the total amount of the writ of execution, which exceeds $2 million,” Ryan Perry and Josh Boswell wrote for TheDailyMail.com
4. Avenatti Ordered to Pay Former Associate $10 Million in Backpay
On October 22, 2018, Michael Avenatti was ordered to pay $4.85 million to former Eagan Avenatti LLP associate, Jason Frank after Avenatti missed a $2 million payment due back in May of 2018. Frank had initially sought $10 million prior to the settlement. “After Avenatti missed the $2 million payment, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Catherine Bauer granted the $10 million judgment Frank sought during the arbitration proceeding, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times” as covered by Court House News.
3. Avenatti Loses Control of Eagan Avenatti LLP
Following an Orange County Judge‘s eviction order stemming from $213,253 in unpaid rent, it appears Eagan Avenatti was hit with one final blow. As discussed above, Avenatti was ordered to pay Attorney Jason Frank $4.85 million. When Avenatti failed to make the payments on time, the Court entered two orders payable to Frank: one against Avenatti for $4.85 million to enforce the personal guarantee, and a second against Eagan Avenatti LLP for $10 million. According to The Daily Beast, Frank then provided the court specific expenditures of Avenatti’s that he knew about. They included:
“$232,875 for his auto racing team;
$13,000 in rent for a luxury apartment;
a $3,640 payment on his Ferrari;
$21,000 for his jet; and
$150,000 for his coffee company.”
“Frank also alleged in court documents Avenatti hid millions in legal fees during bankruptcy proceedings and asked the court to appoint a receiver to take control of the firm,” the article said. “Avenatti responded to Frank’s claims by calling them “completely bogus” and suggested Frank actually owed Avenatti $10 million for allegedly stealing his clients. Basically: I know you are, but what am I?” as reported VICE.
According to The Daily Mail, Avenatti’s ex-wife Lisa Storie received the Ferrari to satisfy a portion of Avenatti’s $2 million debt he owed her.
2. IRS Arrested Avenatti While He Fought to Keep His Law License
Irony sure has its way, doesn’t it? While Avenatti is in California State Bar Court hearing fighting to keep his license (good luck, kid), federal agents arrested Avenatti AGAIN, as reported by Fox News.
A court filing that was unsealed on January 15, 2020 revealed Avenatti’s bail was revoked because “there is reason to believe [Avenatti] had violated terms of his release by engaging in ‘mail fraud,’ ‘wire fraud,’ and ‘structuring financial transactions to evade [currency] reporting requirements,’ as well as ‘money laundering’ since he was charged in all three pending federal cases last spring,” as first reported by CNBC.
1. Stormy Daniels owes President Trump $293,000.00 in attorney’s fees
Coming in at number 1 is sweet, sweet justice. Allow this to serve as a friendly reminder while Michael Avenatti doesn’t always win, President Trump does. Avenatti cost Daniels $293,000 after a judge tossed the bogus case earlier this year, as reported by NPR.
BONUS: The U.S. Attorney’s Office estimates Avenatti is at least $15 million in debt… and that’s a conservative estimate, as reported by The New York Post.
DISCLAIMER: All documents referenced herein are public record. All information contained in this article serves as a mere summarize of the documents contained in the California State Bar Application or corresponding news articles cited herein. This article is intended to serve as an interpretation of the allegations against Michael Avenatti.Michael Avenatti is innocent until proven guilty.
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Mike Yoder is a contributing author for NRN. He is a practicing attorney who lives and works in Washington, DC. Yoder has litigated multiple high profile cases, including: In re: 3M Dual-ended Combat Arms™ Earplugs Product Liability Litigation on behalf of hundreds of disabled veterans, as well as In re: Capital One Consumer Data Breach Security Litigation on behalf of 106 million people whose data was compromised during the massive 2019 breach. Outside of complex civil litigation, Mike Yoder has also represented numerous whistleblowers in the fight against insurance, corporate, and government corruption. Prior to practicing in Washington, DC, Yoder studied the mafia's criminal enterprise in Florence, Italy, and international patent and copyright infringement prosecution in the EU. In 2017, he traveled to The Hague, Netherlands, to attend portions of former Côte d'Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo's trial after he was charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity. Yoder practices throughout the United States and has represented clients from 47 of 50 states, multiple clients from foreign nations, and has litigated cases in Alabama, Alaska, California, the District of Columbia, Florida, Mississippi, Maryland, Nevada, New York, Virginia, and West Virginia state and/or federal courts. Follow Mike Yoder on Twitter @MiketheLawyerDC