DEVELOPING: IRS, DOJ to File 36-Count Indictment Against Michael Avenatti

DEVELOPING: IRS, DOJ to File 36-Count Indictment Against Michael Avenatti

In a sweeping expansion of the criminal charges against Michael Avenatti, a federal grand jury has indicted the Los Angeles lawyer on 36 counts of fraud, perjury, failure to pay taxes, embezzlement and other financial crimes.

A Santa Ana grand jury charged that Avenatti created an extensive network of shell corporations to embezzle millions of dollars from five of his clients, the Los Angeles Times first reported.

The indictments against Avenatti are for wire fraud, tax fraud, bank fraud and bankruptcy fraud.

After Avenatti negotiated settlements for the clients that required payment to go to them, he would lie to the clients about the terms of the settlements, instead depositing the funds to attorney trust accounts he controlled, the indictment says.

The indictment also accuses Avenatti of various tax crimes.

And, according to the indictment, he failed to pay almost $5 million in payroll taxes for a coffee store chain, Global Baristas US LLC, that he owned in Washington and California even while withholding the taxes from employees' paychecks. He is accused of obstructing IRS efforts to collect the taxes and of lying to an IRS revenue officer.

Hanna also said Avenatti submitted "clearly fake" income tax form to receive a loan.

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Avenatti denied the charges on Twitter, saying he had made powerful enemies and would plead not guilty and fight the case.

Weeks later, the U.S. Attorney's office for the Central District of California has scheduled a press conference to announce further charges against Avenatti. Johnson won a $4 million settlement from Los Angeles County, but Avenatti hid the money from him for years.

Federal prosecutors in California plan to level fresh charges against Michael Avenatti on Thursday, marking yet another legal blow for the controversial celebrity attorney known for representing adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

The maximum sentence Avenatti would face if convicted is 335 years in prison. The aircraft has been seized by federal agents. "I look forward to proving my innocence", Avenatti tweeted. Johnson was referred to as "Client 1" in the indictment, but was named at a recent court hearing involving the money Avenatti was ordered to pay his former partner.

He also tweeted a signed statement from Geoffrey Johnson praising Avenatti for advocating for him.

Avenatti became a prominent critic of Trump and a frequent cable TV guest while representing Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. He has said he expects to be cleared in that case. Avenatti is accused of having the money wired to him and hiding it from the victim for years.

Until last month, Avenatti had only provided $124,000 over 69 payments to Johnson, the indictment said. He was charged in a criminal complaint in Santa Ana, California, on March 25 for stealing a different client's $1.6 million settlement to cover his own expenses, as well as cheating a MS bank. He responded "no" when he was asked whether Eagan Avenatti had received legal fees when it was representing ticket holders who sued the National Football League over seating snafus at the 2011 Super Bowl in Texas.

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