LOS ANGELES — Michael Avenatti, the previously little-known lawyer who rocketed to instant fame last year when represented AVN Hall of Famer Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against Donald Trump, faces criminal charges Monday over what prosecutors say was an attempt to extort about $20 million from the Nike shoe manufacturing company, according to a CNBC report.
The extortion-related charges were filed by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York Monday morning approximately one hour after Avenatti posted a message to his Twitter account announcing a press conference “to disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by Nike.”
But Monday was shaping up to be an especially bad day for Avenatti, as prosecutors in Los Angeles were also set to announce new criminal charges against Avenatti in a separate case, according to CNBC. In that case, Avenatti is charged with embezzling money from an unspecified client “in order to pay his own expense and debts,” and of “defrauding a bank in Mississippi.”
After announcing the Daniels lawsuit against Trump over a $130,000 “hush money” payment to keep her quiet about a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006, Avenatti orchestrated a media campaign that not only pressured Trump and his then-lawyer Michael Cohen, but raised Avenatti's media profile tenfold.
But earlier this month, after the suit was finally dismissed by a federal judge, Daniels and Avenatti split, as AVN reported, over issues that neither would publicly reveal.
The $130,000 payment to Daniels led to Cohen’s guilty plea on campaign finance violation charges, with Trump also named as part of the conspiracy to subvert the 2016 election with the secret payment to Daniels.
In the Nike charges, SDNY prosecutors say that Avenatti threatened the company, saying he would “use his ability to garner publicity” to damage Nike’s reputation and inflict financial harm on the shoe maker, unless he was paid $22.5 million to settle his clients’ claims, according to a Business Insider account.
“Every time we got more information, that's going to be The Washington Post, The New York Times, ESPN, a press conference, and the company will die,” Avenatti allegedly told Nike in a phone call, according to SDNY prosecutors.
Avenatti will also face “federal charges of wire fraud and bank fraud in the Central District of California,” according to the United States Justice Department.
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