Federal prosecutors in New York charged attorney and alleged con artist Michael Avenatti on Wednesday for stealing from and forging the signature of his former client, Stephanie Gregory Clifford, who uses the name Stormy Daniels. This indictment comes on the heels of separate fraud and extortion charges filed against Avenatti in March.
Avenatti allegedly stole the $297,500 Daniels was owed for a book advance from her literary agent. The indictment says he did so by sending Daniel’s agent a “fraudulent and unauthorized letter” with a forgery of his client’s signature and instructions to send the money to a bank account controlled solely by Avenatti.
Avenatti then allegedly used the money to pay his personal and business expenses, including: payroll for employees at his law firm, payroll for employees at his coffee business, a monthly $3,900 car payment for his leased Ferrari, airfares, dry cleaning, hotels, restaurants, and car services.
Daniels says she did not sign or authorize any such letter, and that she was not even aware of such a letter’s existence. When she asked Avenatti about her missing payments, he allegedly lied to his client, telling her that he was still trying to get the money from the publisher.
According to the indictment, Avenatti’s retainer agreement with Daniels states that he could receive fees for negotiating her book contract. However, Avenatti had reportedly told Daniels he would not accept any payment relating to her book.
Before the charges were announced on Wednesday morning, Avenatti said via his now-private Twitter account that, “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.”
In March, Avenatti was charged by federal lawyers in the states of New York and California for wire fraud against clients, and for trying to exhort Nike for $20 million.
Daniels ended her relationship with Avenatti last November after the onscreen prostitute told The Daily Beast that Avenatti had sued President Trump for defamation against her wishes and was fundraising off her name without her permission.
At a speaking event in New York this March, Daniels hinted that legal action was on the horizon. “My new attorney said today, ‘Things are about to get real interesting.’ Sit tight, ladies, it’s about to get real f–king good,” she said.