Celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti was charged and arrested by prosecutors in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York for an alleged attempt to extort Nike for $20 million. On the same day, federal authorities in California announced Avenatti also faces federal charges of wire and bank fraud in the Central District of California.
Avenatti, who previously represented Stormy Daniels and Brett Kavanaugh accuser Julie Swetnick, allegedly threatened to bring negative publicity to Nike if his demands were not met, the SDNY said.
The complaint reports that Avenatti allegedly told Nike attorneys that, he would “go take ten billion dollars off your client’s market cap … I’m not f***ing around.” When a Nike attorney said he had never been involved in an investigation for the company that exceeded $10 million, Avenatti asked the attorney if he had ever, “held the balls of a client in your hand where you could take five to six billion dollars market cap off them?”
Less than an hour before the charges were announced on Monday morning, Avenatti announced his own plans to hold a press conference on “a major high school/college basketball scandal.”
Tmrw at 11 am ET, we will be holding a press conference to disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by @Nike that we have uncovered. This criminal conduct reaches the highest levels of Nike and involves some of the biggest names in college basketball.
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) March 25, 2019
Meanwhile, a complaint filed in the Central District of California said Avenatti committed both wire fraud and bank fraud in separate attempts to defraud both his clients and a bank in Biloxi, Mississippi.
“Mr. Avenatti is facing serious criminal charges alleging he misappropriated client trust funds for his personal use and he defrauded a bank by submitting phony tax returns in order to obtain millions of dollars in loans,” prosecutors said in a statement.
There will be two press conferences today, one in New York and one in California, concerning charges against Avenatti.
Avenatti was also referred to the DOJ for a criminal probe last fall by Senator Chuck Grassley, for allegedly lying under oath to Congress.
“When charlatans make false claims to the committee—claims that may earn them short-term media exposure and financial gain, but which hinder the committee’s ability to do its job—there should be consequences,” Grassley wrote in a letter to Jeff Sessions, who was attorney general at the time, and FBI director Christopher Wray.
More recently, Avenatti has involved himself in cases representing migrant parents who were separated from their children when illegally crossing the U.S. border, and women who said they were sexually abused by R&B star R. Kelly.