Disgraced lawyer Michael Avenatti, onetime opponent of Donald Trump, sentenced to 14 years in fraud case
Disgraced lawyer Michael Avenatti was sentenced on Monday to 14 years in federal prison for defrauding his clients and for obstructing IRS efforts to collect payroll taxes from his coffee business.
He was also ordered to pay $7 million in restitution.
The sentence will run consecutively with his combined five-year sentence in New York for stealing from Stormy Daniels and for extorting Nike.
The punishment, imposed by a federal judge in Los Angeles, is a few years shy of what prosecutors sought.Avenatti pleaded guilty in June to stealing money from clients, including one who is a paraplegic, and one count of obstructing collection of federal payroll taxes from his coffee business.
Avenatti skyrocketed to celebrity status in 2018 alongside Daniels, his then-client and an adult film star, who filed multiple lawsuits — unsuccessfully — against then-President Donald Trump.
For a time, the brash lawyer was a fixture on cable news shows and the topic of flattering magazine pieces. Reporters asked him about his skin-care routine and Tom Ford suits while he and Daniels posed for photographer Annie Leibovitz.
Avenatti also briefly dipped his toe into the presidential candidacy pool, dining with potential donors and forming a political action group to accept donations.
Then a series of charges revealed a series of crimes — derailing his career and resulting in lengthy prison terms.
In the federal case carrying the 14-year sentence, “Mr. Avenatti received money on behalf of clients into client trust accounts, misappropriated the money and lied to the clients about receiving the money,” U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said in 2019.
An indictment against Avenatti stated that he stole millions of dollars from clients after they received settlements in various cases. Those funds were supposed to only flow through Avenatti but stayed with him instead, according to prosecutors.
One of the clients who said he was never paid was Geoffrey Johnson, who is paraplegic. Johnson won a $4 million settlement against Los Angeles County in 2015. Prosecutors said that money was paid to Avenatti but was never given to Johnson.
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Authorities said that Avenatti told Johnson the money was not yet available and that he was “advancing” Johnson money to pay rent. Yet the entire time, according to prosecutors, Avenatti had the $4 million and was using it for personal and business expenses.
“Mr. Johnson is the victim of an appalling fraud perpetrated by the one person who owned him loyalty and honest most of all: his own lawyer,” Johnson’s attorney Josh Robbins told ABC News in 2019.