Michael Avenatti–the attorney who, at one time, seemed to be a real thorn in Trump’s side until finding himself embroiled in an alleged scheme to extort money from Nike–is in legal hot water once again. This time, a federal grand jury in New York has indicted him on charges of fraud and aggravated identity theft that are believed to relate to his former client Stormy Daniels
Prosecutors allege that Avenatti brokered a book deal for “Victim-1,” (assumed by many in the media to be Daniels) in 2018 which included an $800,000 advance. Then, they claim, he forged her signature on paperwork to have $300,000 of the money sent to him. The money was allegedly used to cover payroll at Avenatti’s law firm and the now-defunct coffee shop chain Tully’s, of which he was a part-owner. Some of the money may have also been used to cover travel expenses, dry cleaning bills, and lease payments on a Ferrari.
CNN reports that Daniels asked Avenatti why she was not being paid by the publisher, but that Avenatti lied to her, saying no money had been sent. Eventually he repaid around half of the misdirected funds, but that did not stop Daniels from firing Avenatti and publicly saying that he dealt with her “extremely dishonestly.”
While Daniels is not explicitly named in the indictment, the timing and details seem to extremely strongly imply she is “Victim-1.” And, if circumstances weren’t enough to go on, Avenatti offered another clue himself by posting a series of defensive-sounding Tweets about his former client.
“No monies relating to Ms. Daniels were ever misappropriated or mishandled,” Avenatti wrote on Twitter. “She received millions of dollars worth of legal services and we spent huge sums in expenses. She directly paid only $100.00 for all that she received.”