The legal problems keep growing for Michael Avenatti, a former attorney for Stephanie Clifford (who uses the stage name Stormy Daniels). Avenatti’s paraplegic former client, Geoffrey Johnson, is suing the celebrity lawyer for stealing the majority of a $4 million settlement Johnson won against the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department in 2015.
According to a complaint filed with the Orange County Superior Court in California, obtained by Reuters, Johnson is seeking $9.5 million in compensatory damages from Avenatti and other members of his law firm. Johnson claims that Avenatti said the county could not pay the settlement in a lump sum, then hid the money in a personal bank account, then wired Johnson $1,900 monthly payments.
“Mr. Avenatti stole millions of dollars that were meant to compensate Mr. Johnson for a devastating injury, spent it on his own lavish lifestyle, then lied about it to Mr. Johnson for years to cover his tracks,” lawyer Josh Robbins said.
In comments provided to TMZ and Reuters, Avenatti denied Johnson’s claims. “Any claim that any monies due clients were mishandled is bogus nonsense,” he said.
In a since-deleted tweet from Thursday morning, Avenatti claimed that less than a month ago Johnson signed a document attesting to Avenatti’s ethics.
In April 2011, Johnson was arrested and incarcerated at a downtown Los Angeles jail. He said he suffered from mental illness, physical abuses from sheriff’s deputies, and was driven to attempt suicide.
Johnson’s claims are also included in a 36-count federal indictment against Avenatti, which includes several counts of wire fraud, tax fraud, bank fraud, and bankruptcy fraud. Last month, federal prosecutors alleged that Avenatti stole his former client, Clifford’s, book advance, and in March he 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.