Michael Avenatti Sentenced To 48 Months In Prison For Identity Theft And Defrauding A Former Client
Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that MICHAEL AVENATTI was sentenced today in Manhattan federal court by United States District Judge Jesse M. Furman to 48 months in prison for fraud and aggravated identity theft. AVENATTI was previously found guilty on February 4, 2022, following a two-week jury trial.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “Lawyers have a duty to be loyal and advocates for their clients. Far from being a loyal advocate for his client, Michael Avenatti stole his client’s identity and her money in order to line his own pockets. Now, Avenatti will serve a substantial prison sentence for his brazen crimes and betrayal of his client.”
According to the allegations in the Indictment, court documents, and evidence presented at trial:
AVENATTI met Stormy Daniels in February 2018, when she was seeking an attorney to assist her with respect to a non-disclosure agreement that she had earlier signed with President Donald Trump. Daniels later signed a book deal to publish her memoir, and AVENATTI, pretending to act as her attorney and in her interests, stole a portion of the advance on that deal by directing her literary agent to send the money to a bank account AVENATTI controlled.
Specifically, AVENATTI stole two installments of Daniels’ book advance, totaling $297,500. AVENATTI sent to Daniels’ literary agent a fraudulent and unauthorized letter purporting to be from Daniels and appearing to bear her signature, which directed that future payments be sent to a bank account controlled by AVENATTI. In fact, AVENATTI wrote the letter himself, never received authorization from Daniels, and caused Daniels’ signature to be copied and pasted from another document onto the letter without her consent.
After transmitting the fraudulent letter to Daniels’ literary agent, AVENATTI received an installment of Daniels’ advance, worth $148,750, and promptly spent the money to satisfy his own personal and business expenses. When Daniels began inquiring of AVENATTI as to why she had not received the payment, AVENATTI lied to Daniels, telling her that her publisher had not made the payment. Approximately one month after diverting the payment, after Daniels threatened to go directly to her publisher about the missing payment, AVENATTI obtained a personal loan to pay $148,750 to Daniels, so that Daniels would not realize that AVENATTI had previously taken and used Daniels’ money.
A short time later, AVENATTI pressured the publisher to make the next installment payment early, purportedly at Daniels’ request though in truth without her awareness. AVENATTI soon received that installment, another payment of $148,750, which he again spent for his own purposes. For months after he had stolen this installment, Daniels repeatedly asked AVENATTI about the missing payment and, after he again falsely claimed that the publisher had not made the payment, asked that AVENATTI, as her lawyer, assist her in obtaining the book payment. AVENATTI continued to lie and claim that he was fighting with the publisher on her behalf when, as he knew, the publisher had made the payment early, but that he had stolen it. At the same time, further to avoid discovery of his scheme, AVENATTI, purporting to act as Daniels’ attorney, told her publisher and literary agent not to respond to direct requests for information from Daniels.
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In addition to the prison sentence, AVENATTI, 51, of Los Angeles, California, was sentenced to three years of supervised release, as well as restitution and forfeiture. AVENATTI is currently serving a thirty-month sentence for extorting NIKE, Inc., imposed by Judge Paul G. Gardephe in United States v. Avenatti, 19 Cr. 373. Thirty months of imprisonment in this case were imposed consecutively with AVENATTI’s other sentence, and the remainder will run concurrently.
Mr. Williams praised the work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Special Agents of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
The cases are being handled by the Office’s Public Corruption Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Matthew Podolsky, Robert B. Sobelman, and Andrew A. Rohrbach are in charge of the prosecution.