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Federal Grand Jury Indicts Michael Avenatti On 36 Counts

Officials at the Justice Department and the Internal Revenue Service named Michael Avenatti in a 36-count indictment on Thursday, charging the attorney best known for representing porn star Stormy Daniels in a case against President Donald Trump with a litany of financial crimes.

Those include multiple counts each of wire fraud, tax fraud, bank fraud and bankruptcy fraud, U.S. Attorney Nicola T. Hanna said at a Thursday morning press conference in Los Angeles.

“These four areas of criminal conduct alleged in the indictment are all linked to one another because money generated from one set of crimes appears in other sets,” Hanna said, “typically in the form of payments to lull victims and to prevent Mr. Avenatti’s financial house of cards from collapsing.”

Agent Ryan Korner with IRS Criminal Investigation in Los Angeles went a step further, characterizing the 48-year-old lawyer as caught up in a “tangled financial web of lies.”

Avenatti announced ahead of the hearing he intends to plead not guilty, adding on Twitter, “I look forward to the entire truth being known as opposed to a one-sided version meant to sideline me.”

The charges add substantially to the handful of crimes Avenatti was accused of in late March, when federal law enforcement officers arrested the lawyer and accused him of embezzling a client’s money in order to pay his own expenses and debts, defrauding a bank in Mississippi to obtain $4.1 million worth of loans, and attempting to extort Nike for $20 million. 

Thursday’s indictment accuses Avenatti of embezzling money from five clients, including a mentally ill paraplegic man on disability who settled a case for $4 million

Avenatti allegedly attempted to disguise his financial misdeeds via shell companies and numerous bank accounts. In 2017, at the same time he owed millions in back taxes, Avenatti put $2.5 million he’d embezzled toward the purchase of a private jet, according to the indictment.

Federal authorities seized the jet Wednesday.

The lawyer is currently free on a $300,000 bond and is scheduled to be arraigned on April 29 in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, Calif. If convicted on all charges, Avenatti faces a maximum sentence of 335 years in prison.

This has been updated throughout.

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