Stormy Daniels' former lawyer pleads guilty to allegations he stole from other clients
Lawyer Michael Avenatti speaks to members of the media in February after leaving federal court in New York. Photo by John Minchillo/The Associated Press.
Suspended lawyer Michael Avenatti entered a guilty plea in California federal court Thursday in connection with stealing millions of dollars from four clients.
Avenatti, a former lawyer for adult film actress Stormy Daniels, pleaded guilty to four counts of wire fraud and one count of trying to obstruct the administration of the Internal Revenue Code, according to a Department of Justice press release.
The tax charge alleges that Avenatti impeded efforts by the IRS to collect unpaid payroll taxes, estimated to be $5 million, the press release said.
Avenatti pleaded guilty without a plea agreement with prosecutors, report Law360 and Reuters. He faces a maximum prison sentence of 83 years on the charges.
After pleading guilty, Avenatti still faces 31 counts in the case that include wire fraud, bankruptcy fraud and tax-related charges. Avenatti will be sentenced Sept. 19 if the government drops those remaining charges.
Avenatti was also convicted in two separate cases for stealing nearly $300,000 in book-deal payments intended for Daniels and for trying to extort Nike. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison in the Nike case and four years in prison in the Stormy Daniels case, 18 months of which will be served concurrently with the Nike sentence. The result is a five-year total prison sentence.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ranee Katzenstein said during the plea hearing the amount of restitution owed for all 10 wire fraud counts in the indictment is $9 million, according to Law360. Avenatti countered that the amount is “drastically less than that.”
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