Embattled lawyer Michael Avenatti suggested Monday night that federal fraud charges leveled against him are politically motivated by lawyers “close to [President Donald] Trump.”
Avenatti, who is caught in a legal investigation after being arrested in New York for allegedly trying to extort money from active wear icon Nike, is also facing federal fraud charges in Los Angeles after former client Gregory Barela accused the lawyer of stealing money from a settlement fund.
“We did nothing wrong and were entitled to every dollar received,” Avenatti told Fox News. “And of course, [Barela] is represented by a person close to Trump.”
Once touted as a potential Democratic presidential nominee, Avenatti is now looking at almost 100 years in jail if convicted on all charges, according to Fox. He famously represented porn star Stormy Daniels in an unsuccessful suit against the president. (RELATED: Michael Avenatti Arrested For Domestic Violence)
Avenatti is denying all charges and tweeted to his followers Tuesday, thanking them for their “kind words” because “it means a lot.”
I want to thank all of my supporters for your kind words and support today. It means a lot to me. I am anxious for people to see what really happened. We never attempted to extort Nike & when the evidence is disclosed, the public will learn the truth about Nike’s crime & coverup.
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) March 26, 2019
Fox News received text messages and email correspondence between Avenatti and then-client Barela, whom the lawyer had represented in an intellectual property suit. The communication indicates that Barela won his case and was awarded a generous settlement agreement but reportedly was thwarted in his efforts to get the cash from Avenatti.
Avenatti allegedly wired the money to an account that Barela was unable to access and his lawyers now accuse Avenatti of using the money to pay debts owed to a Washington state coffee business. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Coffee Company CEO Says Avenatti Owes Him $110K — And Financial Records Appear To Support The Claim)
Barela is represented by Stephen G. Larson, a former George W. Bush-appointed U.S. District Court judge. Larson told Fox that he considers the criminal charges against Avenatti to be completely appropriate.
“We and our clients applaud the US Attorney and IRS Criminal Investigation for addressing this matter and we intend to carefully follow its progress through the criminal justice system,” Larson said.
As for being “close to Trump,” Larson’s legal partner, Steven Bledsoe, responded by telling Fox, “falsification of legal documents and theft of client funds is not a political matter.”