Michael Avenatti charged with stealing nearly $300K from Stormy Daniels in federal indictment

The money was from a publisher working with Daniels on a book deal.

Did these two deserve each other or what?

Michael Avenatti, the sleazy loudmouth attorney who rocketed to fame through his representation of aging porn star Stormy Daniels in her battles with President Donald Trump, was charged Wednesday with ripping her off in a new indictment.

Avenatti was indicted on fraud and aggravated identity theft charges for allegedly using a “fraudulent document purporting to bear his client’s name and signature to convince his client’s literary agent to divert money owed to Avenatti’s client to an account controlled by Avenatti,” according to a statement by federal prosecutors in New York City.

The prosecutors say Avenatti diverted about $300,000 that Daniels was supposed to receive from a book deal, then used the money for personal and business expenses. The publisher sent two payments of over $148,000, intended for Daniels, to Avenatti and she’s so far only received half of that, according to the indictment.

Prosecutors accused Avenatti of spending the money lavishly, including monthly payments on a Ferrari.

Daniels isn’t named in the court filing, but the details of the case, including the date her book was released, make it clear that she is the bilked client involved, who is referred to as “Victim-1” on the indictment. 

Avenatti denied the allegations on Twitter (of course):

“No monies relating to Ms. Daniels were ever misappropriated or mishandled. 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 wrote.

The charges pile on top of previous allegations of legal misconduct by Avenatti: he was previously charged in New York with trying to extort up to $25 million from Nike by threatening to expose claims that the shoemaker paid off high school basketball players to steer them to Nike-sponsored colleges. And in Los Angeles, he’s facing a multicount federal indictment alleging that he stole millions of dollars from clients, didn’t pay taxes, committed bank fraud and lied during bankruptcy proceedings.

Avenatti has denied the allegations against him on both coasts, saying he expects to be exonerated. The Los Angeles charges alone carry a potential penalty of more than 300 years in prison.

Daniels initially hired Avenatti to handle a lawsuit she filed last year in which she sought to invalidate the nondisclosure agreement she’d signed with Trump’s then-lawyer Michael Cohen in exchange for $130,000.

Her lawsuit against Cohen and her former attorney, Keith Davidson, recently came to nothing. According to Davidson, it was a “walk away” settlement, where Daniels received no payment.

An ill-considered defamation lawsuit against Trump filed by Avenatti has left Daniels on the hook for six figures.

Daniels first publicly raised concerns about Avenatti’s conduct in November.

In a statement, she said Avenatti had launched a fundraising effort to raise money for her legal case without telling her. She also said he had filed a defamation lawsuit against Trump, on her behalf, against her wishes.

“For months I’ve asked Michael Avenatti to give me accounting information about the fund my supporters so generously donated to for my safety and legal defense. He has repeatedly ignored those requests,” she said. “Days ago I demanded again, repeatedly, that he tell me how the money was being spent and how much was left. Instead of answering me, without my permission or even my knowledge Michael launched another crowdfunding campaign to raise money on my behalf. I learned about it on Twitter.”

At the time, Avenatti responded that he was still Daniels “biggest champion.”

He said that under his retention agreement, she had agreed to pay him just $100 for his services, and he was entitled to keep all the money he raised for her legal defense to defray what he said were substantial costs of her case.

The defamation case initiated by Avenatti against Trump backfired, with a judge ordering her to pay the president’s legal bills.

When Avenatti was first charged with defrauding other clients and extorting Nike in March, Daniels said she was “saddened but not shocked.”

She added on Twitter that she had fired Avenatti a month earlier after “discovering that he had dealt with me extremely dishonestly.” She did not elaborate.