On Monday, disgraced attorney Michael Avenatti was given a 14-year term for embezzling millions of dollars from four of his clients and for obstruction of justice. He was also forced to pay over $11 million in restitution. Earlier this year, Avenatti pled guilty to four counts of wire fraud for each client he stole from, plus one count of attempting to hinder the administration of the Internal Revenue Code. According to the government’s case, he thwarted an Internal Revenue Service effort to recoup $5 million in back payroll taxes owed by Tully’s Coffee.
Federal district judge James Selna handed down the sentence, which will begin after Avenatti serves out the five years he was given for convictions in two separate New York cases. Avenatti was sentenced by Selna to pay more than $10 million in reparations to four clients and the Internal Revenue Service.
“Michael Avenatti was a corrupt lawyer who claimed he was fighting for the little guy. In fact, he only cared about his own selfish interests,” US Attorney Martin Estrada said in a statement following the sentencing. “He stole millions of dollars from his clients – all to finance his extravagant lifestyle that included a private jet and race cars. As a result of his illegal acts, he has lost his right to practice law in California, and now he will serve a richly deserved prison sentence.”
Avenatti’s lawyer Dean Steward said in a statement to CNN that his client had described the penalty as “off the charts” in court. “When compared with similar high-profile cases, the unfairness is glaring,” Steward said. Avenatti’s representation of adult film star Stormy Daniels, who claimed she had an affair with former President Donald Trump before he ran for office, made the abrasive attorney a household figure, and Monday’s punishment is the latest episode in an epic legal drama that has spanned years.
The court clearly wanted to deliver a strong message since Avenatti’s deceit was so blatant. CNN senior legal commentator and former federal prosecutor Elie Honig remarked, “But a 14-year sentence is very long given all the circumstances.” Avenatti is presently serving time in prison for stealing nearly $300,000 from a book advance paid to his ex-client Daniels and for attempting to extort millions of dollars from Nike. (Trump has denied having an affair with Daniels.)
In the California case, the maximum sentence that could have been imposed on Avenatti was 83 years. After Avenatti agreed to plead guilty to a few fraud charges earlier this year, the Justice Department dropped the remaining 31 counts against him. In a court filing at the time, federal prosecutors said they would not pursue the remaining 31 counts of wire fraud, bank fraud, and tax-related offenses because the judge may consider those claims when he eventually sentenced Avenatti.
That's a shame#MichaelAvenatti pic.twitter.com/ikPa1iLVxL
— Michael Malice (@michaelmalice) December 5, 2022
In pleading guilty earlier this year, Avenatti admitted to stealing millions of dollars from clients, including $4 million from a client with a serious disability. The indictment alleges that once Avenatti obtained settlements for his clients, he would lie to them about the details of the settlements, instead putting the money into attorney trust accounts he controlled.
According to the indictment, he would subsequently embezzle and misappropriate those cash, telling consumers the settlement proceeds hadn’t yet been distributed among other measures to conceal his scam.
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For stealing millions of dollars from four of his clients and for obstructing justice, disgraced attorney Michael Avenatti was sentenced to 14 years in prison on Monday. Over $11 million in restitution was also ordered to be paid by him. Avenatti pleaded guilty to four counts of wire fraud, one for each victim, and one for trying to obstruct the IRS’s ability to enforce the law earlier this year. The government claims that he prevented the IRS from collecting $5 million in payroll taxes that were owed by Tully’s Coffee.
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