Michael Avenatti, a lawyer most notable for his defense of Stormy Daniels against Donald Trump, was charged on Monday with attempting to extort Nike for millions of dollars over information involving a high school and college basketball scandal.
Thanks to the federal complaint, which prosecutors from the Southern District of NY released following Avenatti's arrest less than an hour after he tweeted, we know roughly what those allegations involved: threatening to release information that would "damage the company's reputation" if Nike's lawyers didn't pay Avenatti to stay quiet. "I'm not f*cking around", he warned Nike's lawyers in a call that was recorded by federal investigators.
Avenatti and Nike did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Additionally, it's been alleged that Avenatti submitted false tax returns to a bank in MS to get $4.1 million in loans. He's scheduled to appear in court in California on April 1, with preliminary hearings in NY set for April 25.
The Manhattan US Attorney's office said it would hold a press conference to discuss the charges this afternoon.
The news came less than an hour after Avenatti tweeted his intentions to detail "a major high school/college basketball scandal" involving the sports company in a press conference Tuesday.
"Good news for my friend @MichaelAvenatti, if you plead fast enough, you might just get to share a cell with Michael Cohen!" he wrote, referring to the former Trump lawyer set to go to prison next month for crimes that include orchestrating hush-money payments to Daniels.
According to the NY criminal complaint, Avenatti had told Nike he would have a press conference to disclose allegations of misconduct by Nike employees unless the company met his monetary demands.
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Avenatti, who represented porn star Stormy Daniels in a lawsuit against President Trump that sought to free her from a nondisclosure agreement, faces a maximum sentence of 47 years in prison for the charges filed in NY, and another 50 years for those filed in California.
A complaint filed in NY said he tried to extort millions of dollars from Nike. Avenatti also allegedly demanded that Nike pay $1.5 million to an individual he claimed to represent.
According to an affidavit filed with the criminal complaint in this case, Avenatti negotiated a settlement which called for $1.6 million in settlement money to be paid on January 10, 2018, but then gave the client a bogus settlement agreement with a false payment date of March 10, 2018. She issued a statement Monday on Twitter saying she fired Avenatti a month ago after "discovering that he had dealt with me extremely dishonestly".
Minutes after the news broke, the Justice Department announced charges against Avenatti in a separate federal case from California.
He faces up to 47 years in prison on the four extortion-related charges filed in NY.