Michael Avenatti, a celebrity lawyer with critics, has been accused of hijacking nearly $ 2 million after hitting a lucrative settlement for former NBA player friend Hassan Whiteside.
Avenatti, lawyer Alexis Gardner, 27, has negotiated a $ 3 million deal for the actress and barista, including $ 2.75 million, including Whiteside, 29, of Miami Heat and connected to a trust account established by Avenatti in January 2017, according to the bank records. and an indictment pronounced on April 10 by a grand jury based in California.
Avenatti was entitled to $ 1 million in legal fees, but he did not inform Gardner of the payment and did not submit the terms of his contract with Whiteside, prosecutors said in the indictment. Instead, he transferred $ 2.5 million to the bank account of a partner-owned law firm so he could buy a share of a small private jet.
Avenatti told Gardnert that the first Whiteside payment was for legal fees, but that it would receive monthly payments over the next eight years. He made 11 transfers to Gardner, totaling $ 194,000, before the money stopped in June 2018.
Although Whiteside and Gardner confirmed the settlement in a statement, Avenatti rebuffed the charges that he had acted unlawfully or improperly.
"No one has ever diverted money and I look forward to all the relevant documents and facts being presented at the trial," he told the Los Angeles Times in an email. "Complainant customers represent only a very small fraction of the thousands of clients I have served during my nearly 20-year career."
The grand jury indictment, which counts 36 counts, refers to four other clients to whom Avenatti allegedly stole millions of dollars, including Geoffrey Ernest Johnson, a paraplegic suffering from mental illness. , and makeup artist YouTube, Michelle Phan. He has also been charged with tax evasion, bank fraud and bankruptcy, as well as perjury. In addition, he faces a case of extortion and federal conspiracy in New York as part of his relationship with Nike. Avenatti denies any wrongdoing.