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Michael Avenatti’s alleged misdeeds have led one former federal prosecutor to label him a “Disney version of the villain.”
Avenatti first stepped into the public eye defending Stormy Daniels, the adult film star who became known for allegedly having an affair with Donald Trump before his presidency. He’s also involved in another high-profile case, having given prosecutors two alleged R. Kelly sexual assault tapes, but Avenatti is now facing legal problems of his own, with federal prosecutors in New York and California recently accusing him of a number of financial crimes.
Former federal prosecutor Alex Little appeared on Fox’s “Shepard Smith Reporting” on Monday, where he compared Avenatti to a Disney villain, calling him “the lawyer who’s done everything wrong,” according to Fox News.
Avenatti was most recently accused of embezzling more than $2 million dollars from Alexis Garner, the ex-girlfriend of NBA player Hassan Whiteside. Prosecutors allege that while representing Garner in an unspecified lawsuit against Whiteside, Avenatti helped the two exes reach a settlement of $3 million dollars, but then kept Whiteside’s first payment of $2.75 million a secret from Garner and instead wired $2.5 million to himself to buy shares of a private jet, despite only being owed around $1 million dollars in legal fees, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Avenatti has been accused of obscuring the facts of the settlement to Garner, and allegedly informed her that she’d be receiving monthly payments for eight years; the payments stopped in June 2018, with Garner receiving a total of around $194,000, according to the outlet.
“Three million dollars and he takes all of it to buy a jet? You can’t get much worse than that,” Little said during Monday’s show.
He went on to claim that Avenatti committed his alleged crimes out of “greed,” commenting, “Most of these crimes are about either greed or addiction. We don't know anything about whether or not he's got some addiction. But if you don't have that, you kind of point to, this is the guy who wanted to spend a lot of money and he was trying to bring in money.”
“When there wasn’t enough, he cut corners and he stole it,” Little continued.
Avenatti has been accused of embezzling millions more from four other clients, including a mentally ill, disabled man and YouTube star Michelle Phan, the Times reports. Avenatti has steadfastly denied the claims against him, telling the outlet that his accusers are a small percentage of his clientele.
“No monies were ever embezzled from anyone and I look forward to all of the relevant documents and facts being presented at trial,” he said.
Avenatti’s charges also include tax fraud, bankruptcy fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, and extortion, and he faces a maximum of more than 300 years in prison if convicted of all of the charges levied against him in California, The New York Times reports.
Little suggested on Monday that the evidence against Avenatti is strong.
“Federal prosecutors don’t get the papers wrong. If this woman got $2 million, she’s gonna know about it, it’s gonna be easy to trace,” he said, adding, “And so these sorts of cases are particularly difficult to just argue your way out of. He likes to fight. He may have found a fight that's too big for him.”
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