Michael Avenatti sentenced to 14 years in prison for stealing millions of dollars from clients

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CNN

Disgraced attorney Michael Avenatti was sentenced to 14 years in prison on Monday and ordered to pay nearly $11 million in restitution for embezzling millions of dollars from four of his clients and obstruction.

Avenatti pleaded guilty earlier this year to four counts of wire fraud for every customer he stole from and one count of obstruction of Internal Revenue Code administration. Prosecutors said he obstructed the IRS’s attempt to collect $5 million in unpaid payroll taxes for Tully’s Coffee.

The sentence handed down by Federal District Judge James Selna comes after Avenatti serves a five-year sentence he is currently serving after being convicted in two separate New York trials.

Selna also ordered Avenatti to pay more than $10 million in restitution to four clients and to the IRS.

“Michael Avenatti was a corrupt lawyer who claimed he was fighting for the little man. In fact, he only cared about his own selfish interests,” US attorney Martin Estrada said in a post-conviction statement. “He stole millions of dollars from his clients – all to fund his lavish lifestyle, which included a private jet and race cars. As a result of his illegal actions, he has lost his right to practice law in California and will now serve a well-deserved prison sentence.”

Dean Steward, an attorney for Avenatti, said in a statement to CNN that the sentence was “overly harsh and inappropriate,” adding that his client described it in court as “off the charts.”

“Compared to similar high-profile cases, the unfairness is obvious,” Stewart said.

Monday’s verdict represents the latest installment in an extraordinary year-long legal drama surrounding Avenatti, whose representation of Stormy Daniels, the adult film star who claimed to have had an affair with former President Donald Trump years before he ran for office, made the belligerent lawyer a known name.

“Avenatti’s fraud was blatant and the court clearly wanted to send a strong message. But a 14-year prison sentence is unusually long, given all the circumstances,” said CNN senior legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Elie Honig.

Avenatti is currently serving prison time after being convicted of extorting millions of dollars from Nike and stealing nearly $300,000 from a book advance from Daniels, his client at the time. (Trump has denied having an affair with Daniels.)

Avenatti had received a legal maximum of 83 years in prison in the California case.

Earlier this year, the Justice Department dropped the 31 remaining fraud counts facing Avenatti after he agreed to plead guilty to the handful of charges. Federal prosecutors said in a lawsuit at the time that they would not proceed with the remaining 31 counts of bank fraud, bank fraud and tax-related charges because the judge could consider those charges when ultimately sentencing Avenatti.

When he pleaded guilty earlier this year, Avenatti admitted to stealing millions of dollars from clients, including $4 million from a client with severe disabilities. According to the indictment, after Avenatti negotiated settlements for the clients who needed payment to go to them, Avenatti lied to the clients about the terms of the settlements, instead depositing the money into the trust accounts of attorneys he controlled . He would then embezzle and embezzle those funds, according to the indictment, and to avoid detection of his scheme, would tell clients, among other things, that the settlement proceeds had not yet been paid.

This story has been updated with additional details.


The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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