Michael Avenatti, a well-known lawyer, hinted on Monday in a violent statement to Fox News that Los Angeles lawyers have sued him for alleged theft of a former client's settlement fund – a case that pushed California prosecutors to knock down Avenatti on Monday with charges of federal criminal fraud – have political motives and are "close" to the Trump administration.
Although the spectacular arrest of Avenatti in New York for a so-called $ 25 million extortion scheme, targeting Monday the sportswear giant, has made the headlines, the accusations of bank fraud and banking he faces simultaneously in Los Angeles could be his biggest legal threat.
Avenatti is considering up to 47 years in prison for charges in New York if found guilty, and 50 years in the case of California, which results from a much longer investigation that involves a paper trail longer. Avenatti firmly denied the wrongdoing and, in a tweet early Tuesday morning, thanked his supporters for their "kind words," adding, "It matters a lot to me."
Fox News exclusively obtained text messages and e-mail conversations between Avenatti, 48, and his former client, Gregory Barela, who documented Barela's efforts for several months in 2018 to locate and secure the funds owed to him. under a settlement agreement resulting from his intellectual obligations. property conflict with an out-of-state company.
Financial documents also reviewed by Fox News indicate that the money had been transferred to an account designated by Avenatti on January 5, 2018, but that Avenatti apparently continued to escape the customer's increasingly frenetic questions about at the location of the funds.
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"We have done nothing wrong and are entitled to every dollar received," said Avenatti at Fox News. "And of course, [Barela] is represented by someone close to Trump ".
Avenatti's remarks come just a day after Attorney General William Barr announced that special advocate Robert Mueller had cleared Trump and his campaign of illegal collusion with the Russians – a case that, among other things, was announced by Avenatti, who would overthrow Trump's presidency.
Just a few weeks ago, Avenatti announced that it no longer represented the adult movie star Stormy Daniels, as a result of a stormy relationship in which Daniels accused Avenatti of suing Trump in his name, but without his permission and to have had a "dishonest" behavior. A judge ordered Daniels to pay Trump's legal fees in this case. On Monday, Daniels said she was "saddened but not shocked" by the charges against Avenatti, and said worryingly, "there will be more announcements coming."
Stephen G. Larson, former US District Court Judge appointed by George W. Bush, who founded Larson O. Brien LLP and now represents Barela in his civil complaint against Avenatti, told Fox News that he was grateful to the prosecutors for lodging a complaint. Barela's complaint is currently under arbitration, but may soon be sent to court if Avenatti does not pay the required arbitration fees.
"Our clients and we commend the US Attorney and the IRS criminal investigation for dealing with this issue and we intend to closely monitor its progress in the criminal justice system," Larson told Fox News.
Steven Bledsoe, another associate of Larson O & # 39; Brien LLP, said: "The falsification of legal documents and theft of client funds do not constitute a political affair," he said.
"This day has been a long time coming."
Federal prosecutors in California have stated that Barela's settlement-delivery "claimed the payment of $ 1.6 million on January 10, 2018", but that "Avenatti had instead given Barela a" false settlement "with a date of false payment on March 10, 2018. According to the affidavit of prosecutors, Avenatti embezzled the money from the settlement of his client, in violation not only of the federal law, but also ethical requirements of the state, and used to pay expenses for his coffee business and other businesses.
"When the false deadline of March 2018 passed and the client asked where was the money," said the prosecutor, "Avenatti continued to hide that the payment had already been received".
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In March 2018, according to the complaint filed by Barela's lawyers in arbitration, Barela went to the law firm Eagan Avenatti in Newport Beach, California, to ask for information about this money. – only to see two lawyers working with Avenatti, John Arden. and Ahmed Ibrahim, reportedly tried to keep quiet about it.
"Mr. Barela saw Mr. Arden's reflection in the glass wall of the conference room and saw Mr. Arden signal to Mr. Ibrahim to stop discussing the payment of Mr. Barlea's transaction," he says. the document, after which "Mr. Ibrahim and Mr. Arden … actively deceived Mr. Barela by not revealing that payment of the settlement had been received."
In an email dated April 5, 2018 and reviewed by Fox News, Barela wrote to Avenatti that he wished to "discuss my collection options" on the settlement funds. Ten days later, Barela asked again for Avenatti's opinion on the "status" of the transfer and on the "next steps" to be taken if the funds were not collected.
On May 7, 2018, Barela wrote that if the company "does not pay quickly", it might "need some help" financially from Avenatti. On May 15, Barela again asked if the company had "responded[ed] or paid. Barela also noted in a conversation that he was planning to organize a night of surveillance at his home for an upcoming Avenatti appearance on "60 Minutes".
After several Avenatti cash advances, on October 10, 2018, Barela wrote: "I was hoping to have an update" on settlement funds and "get our money". He told Avenatti: "I need $ 8,000 by Tuesday when I am in a deep sea **", and on October 22, he sent a critical appraisal by email.
"Michael, I was waiting for your call and I know you are busy," Barela wrote on October 22. "I'm sending updates like this so you do not have to retrieve old emails." I know your [sic] under pressure then let's discuss what you can or can not do? … just so you know that I have real financial problems and that I'm trying to get another loan. I'm trying to use the [settlement] agree to secure it. I need to know that we really have the ability to gather and time the best of you [sic] opinion."
The email concluded by asking if the company had "answered" and "otherwise what is our next action".
Avenatti did not disclose that he had received the transfer in his conversations with Barela, according to Barela's lawyers and an analysis of emails between Avenatti and Barela, extending over most of the time. year 2018.
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Avenatti, who had briefly considered running for the Democratic presidential nomination of 2020 and had deposited a $ 300,000 bond in New York on Monday, told Fox News that Barela's story was "ridiculously false" and "fraudulent", adding that "we had previously represented Mr. Barela in several cases and he received 100% of what he is entitled to."
Avenatti also insisted that Barela lacked credibility, partly because of legal problems. The court records obtained by Fox News indicate that Barela is on probation for his work on a construction project without a proper license and has been ordered to pay close to $ 50,000 in restitution.
Bledsoe, however, said Monday that the paperwork was overwhelming when he told Fox News: "The day has been a long time coming … I would not have believed this case if I had not seen the documents myself. -even."
"Mr. Avenatti is a great talker, but I do not think it's anyway possible to get around the written record that we believe shows that he falsified the terms of the agreement." of settlement, denied having received payment of the settlement, and then passed his client 's money settlement, "Bledsoe told Fox News, adding that the Los Angeles case involved a charge of" falsification of money ". a settlement and theft of clients' funds, supported by simple documentation including bank records, SMS and emails ".
Calling Avenatti's attacks on his client's "shameful" attempts at misappropriation of management, Mr. Bledsoe added: "Falsifying settlement documents and taking money from a client is pretty much as little as a lawyer can get in. It seems that's what Mr. Avenatti did. "
For his part, US lawyer Nick Hanna said that Avenatti had also been indicted following a two-year tax investigation with the IRS after apparently obtaining 4.1 Millions of dollars in loans to his law firm and his coffee business from a Mississippi bank. $ 4,562,881 in 2011, $ 5,423,099 in 2012 and $ 4,082,803 in 2013.
Avenatti also said that he had paid more than $ 1 million in estimated taxes to the IRS in 2012 and 2013, by which date, according to prosecutors, he was actually owed the money. IRS $ 850,438, interest and penalties for the years 2009 and 2010. In addition, the authorities stated: Avenatti has not paid any personal income tax for 2011, 2012 and 2013 and no estimated taxes for 2012 and 2013.
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"[Avenatti] is a corrupt lawyer who fights for his own selfish interests, "said Hanna, adding that the charges against the lawyer" paint a disastrous picture of lawlessness and greed. "
Avenatti became famous as a lawyer for Daniels, the adult film actress who claimed to have had an affair with President Trump in 2006 while his wife, Melania, was pregnant with the couple's son, Barron . Last year, Daniels and Avenatti became known names in their fight against Trump, dominating news programming on cable for months and causing the president in interviews.