Just a few years ago, former attorney Michael Avenatti was heralded as a hero of the left — and even touted as a potential Democratic presidential candidate — in regard to his incredibly angry and outspoken opposition to then-President Donald Trump.
Now, however, the disgraced Trump-hating ex-lawyer is facing 14 years in prison in California after he was found guilty of stealing money from his clients, the Daily Wire reported.
Unfortunately for Avenatti, he won’t be able to begin serving that decade-plus stretch behind bars until after he first completes a combined five-year federal prison sentence in New York for attempting to separately defraud and extort both Nike and former client Stormy Daniels, who sued Trump over an alleged affair, out of tens of millions of dollars.
14 years and $10+ million in restitution
A Justice Department release on Monday announced that U.S. District Judge James Selna had sentenced Avenatti to 168 months in federal prison and ordered him to pay roughly $10.8 million in restitution to four clients as well as the Internal Revenue Service, after he pleaded guilty in June to four counts of wire fraud and a single count of attempting to obstruct the IRS from collecting money that he owed.
“Michael Avenatti was a corrupt lawyer who claimed he was fighting for the little guy. In fact, he only cared about his own selfish interests,” U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada said in a statement. “He stole millions of dollars from his clients — all to finance his extravagant lifestyle that included a private jet and race cars.”
The federal prosecutor added, “As a result of his illegal acts, he has lost his right to practice law in California, and now he will serve a richly deserved prison sentence.”
DOJ details Avenatti’s horrible crimes
The DOJ release proceeded to provide details in each of the four separate cases of defrauding his clients for which he had been charged.
The sentencing memorandum filed by prosecutors stated: “Although the details pertaining to each of the four clients underlying the charges in the indictment differ, the general pattern was the same.”
Avenatti “would lie about the true terms of the settlement agreement he had negotiated for the client, conceal the settlement payments that the counterparty had made, secretly take and spend the settlement proceeds that belonged to the client, and lull the client into not complaining or investigating further by providing small ‘advances’ on the supposedly yet-to-be paid funds,” the memo explained.
As for the IRS obstruction charge, the ex-lawyer was accused of failing to pay millions of dollars, or even file required returns, in both personal income, corporate, and payroll taxes for both his law firm and a coffee shop that he owned.
Prosecutors said in the sentencing memo that Avenatti’s “tax fraud scheme was massive, resulting in losses to the federal treasury … and harming hundreds of his employees whose payroll taxes he stole.”
Avenatti calls sentence “overly harsh and uncalled for”
According to CNN, Avenatti initially faced far more than just 14 years in prison but saw DOJ prosecutors drop 31 additional counts — including “wire fraud, bank fraud, and tax-related charges” — after he had accepted an agreement to plead guilty to the five above counts in June.
Even still, Avenatti’s defense attorney, Dean Steward, decried the “unfairness” of the lengthy sentence in comparison to other high-profile cases and asserted that the 14 years and hefty restitution “was overly harsh and uncalled for.”
However, CNN’s report suggested that the sentence was likely appropriate and justified given that while the plea agreement meant that prosecutors would not move forward with the 31 dropped counts, those alleged crimes would still be considered by the judge whenever Avenatti finally faced sentencing.