Controversial and disgraced attorney Michael Avenatti has been arrested without bond for committing crimes while awaiting trial for other, separate crimes.
The ex-lawyer for former adult film star Stormy Daniels — and, at one time, 2020 presidential hopeful — was taken into custody in California on Tuesday, according to Fox News. Prosecutors claim that Avenatti was laundering money to avoid paying debts and to continue leading a lavish lifestyle as he faces three criminal cases in California and New York.
“I can confirm that he was arrested by federal agents,” Avenatti’s lawyer, Dean Steward, said in a statement. “I anticipate a bail hearing at 2 p.m. tomorrow in Magistrate’s Court in Santa Ana. I haven’t seen the details of the warrant, but should have it later this evening.“
Arrested in California
Avenatti was arrested Tuesday evening during a break in a California state bar hearing about having his law license suspended, which centered on claims that the lawyer ripped off a client for roughly $840,000 of his settlement money, according to Fox. He was taken into custody by IRS agents for violating the terms of his bail agreement.
Avenatti did not return to the bar hearing, but he did appear in federal California court to face embezzlement charges the next day. The lawyer is accused of a raft of financial crimes in the state, including cheating a disabled client out of millions in settlement money.
In court documents, prosecutors on Wednesday accused Avenatti of hiding his assets to avoid creditors and keep living the high-flying life he’s accustomed to, renting an $11,000 per month apartment, and purchasing a Mercedes car in his ex-wife’s name as he awaits trial. According to CNBC, Judge James Selna subsequently ordered Avenatti held without bail until he could be transported to New York on Friday to face trial there for an attempt to extort Nike for millions.
“If allowed to remain on bond, defendant will almost certainly continue to engage in further fraudulent and obstructive conduct,” prosecutors said of Avenatti.
Just moments ago ex-Stormy Daniels attorney Michael Avenatti was taken out of the California State Bar Court in LA the custody of federal agents. pic.twitter.com/cU8sM4DUw1
— Jason McGahan (@JasonMcGahan) January 15, 2020
A trial in New York
Avenatti’s New York trial was scheduled for next week, but it may have been delayed somewhat by the sudden arrest, much to the chagrin of authorities in the Empire State. The New York judge in his case said that the arrest has thrown the trial “into chaos.”
The pre-trial arrest certainly makes for a dramatic contrast with Avenatti’s brief and meteoric rise to national fame as the celebrity lawyer for Daniels, a former adult film star whose legal battles with President Donald Trump attracted the salacious interest of the media. At his height, Avenatti was yucking it up with CNN anchors in the Hamptons and even weighed a run for the presidency, Fox noted.
But that’s all history since Avenatti’s arrest in March. Besides the embezzlement and extortion charges, the lawyer is also accused of ripping off Daniels for hundreds of thousands of dollars in a book deal.
Daniels cut ties with Avenatti before his arrest in March, citing his filing of a lawsuit without her permission and other complaints. Avenatti has meanwhile portrayed himself as the victim of a witch hunt having to do with his opposition to Trump, but Daniels responded angrily on Wednesday to a Twitter user who suggested that Avenatti was being hunted for exposing Trump’s alleged affair with Daniels.
“Did they make him forge my name, steal my money, and lie to me?” Daniels tweeted. “F*** him!”