Disgraced attorney Michael Avenatti has been accused of embezzling nearly $2 million from a client so he could buy a share in a private jet. This was part of a 36-count indictment filed earlier this month, however, the details of this case weren’t revealed until the LA Times published a story Sunday.
The victims, in this case, were Miami Heat basketball player Hassan Whiteside and his ex-girlfriend Alexis Gardner. Gardner was apparently threatening to bring legal action against Whiteside. Acting as her attorney, Avenatti worked out a settlement deal in which Whiteside agreed to pay $3 million dollars to Gardner. Most of the money was paid up front but Gardner never found out about it:
Gardner’s settlement with Whiteside — Avenatti never gave her a copy — required the basketball player to pay her $2.75 million in January 2017, then the remaining $250,000 on Nov. 1, 2020, the indictment says.
Whiteside wired the $2.75 million on Jan. 25, 2017, to a client trust account at Eagan Avenatti. Rather than taking his fee of about $1 million, plus expenses, Avenatti kept all the money and misrepresented the settlement’s terms to Gardner, according to the indictment.
He told her the initial payment was entirely for attorney fees, and her money would be split into 96 monthly payments over the next eight years, prosecutors say…
Avenatti wound up making 11 payments to Gardner, misrepresenting them as Whiteside’s monthly installments, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles. By the time the payments stopped in June 2018, Avenatti had given her about $194,000, prosecutors say.
For the next nine months, they allege, Avenatti deceived Gardner, telling her that Whiteside was breaching the settlement by skipping payments.
He just made all this up and lied about everything. So where did the money actually go? It went to a half share in a private jet:
The day after receiving the wire transfer from Whiteside, Avenatti shifted $2.5 million to a bank account of X-Law Group, the Echo Park firm of his close associate Filippo Marchino, bank records show.
At Avenatti’s instruction, according to prosecutors, Marchino immediately wired the $2.5 million to Honda Aircraft Co., LLC, for the purchase of Avenatti’s half share of a small HA-420 jet.
That’s the same private jet that was seized earlier this month in Santa Barbara. The co-owner of the jet is another former Avenatti client who has sued him.
The LA Times notes that this case is one of five instances in which Avenatti allegedly stole from his own clients. One of the other cases involved a paraplegic client who won a $4 million settlement but Avenatti never told him about the settlement and paid him just over $100,000. Avenatti also allegedly stole from Michelle Phan:
The clients whose money prosecutors say Michael Avenatti stole are a diverse bunch. One was Michelle Phan, a makeup artist w/ 8.8 million YouTube followers. Prosecutors say he embezzled $4 million from her. 1/ pic.twitter.com/RfdcpNbD4W
— Michael Finnegan (@finneganLAT) April 21, 2019
As always, Avenatti denies everything and claims he’ll be vindicated. I would post the tweet of him saying so but he recently protected all of his tweets. Sort of makes you wonder how an attorney this (allegedly) crooked wound up a household name. Oh, right:
The Washington Free Beacon analyzed 108 appearances by Avenatti on MSNBC and CNN over a 64-day period from March 7 to May 10. To calculate his earned media time, the Free Beacon multiplied the length of his appearances on a program by its “National Publicity Value” determination from media monitoring site TVEyes.com.
The total came out to $174,631,598.07 from at least 65 CNN appearances and 43 MSNBC appearances. Avenatti’s favorite shows include CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” (at least 20 interviews), MSNBC’s “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” (14), CNN’s “New Day” (12), CNN’s “Tonight with Don Lemon” (eight), and MSNBC’s “Deadline White House” (seven).
CNN and MSNBC gave him so much air time they almost made him a Democratic candidate for president.