One might call Michael Avenatti’s career a forty thousand foot nose dive.
On Wednesday, federal agents seized the embattled lawyer’s private jet, worth about $4.5 million, in a federal warrant.
Thom Mrozek, a U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman, said federal agents seized a Honda HA-420 twin-engine jet from Santa Barbara Airport about 10 a.m. after a federal judge issued the warrant.
Originally, it was scheduled to be flown on Wednesday to Orange County on behalf of Avenatti. But aviation officials say pilots had to file a new flight plan to San Bernardino County.
“Federal authorities have seized a jet co-owned by Mr. Avenatti pursuant to a seizure warrant issued by a federal judge. This seizure is related to the pending criminal case in Los Angeles,” a federal official told Fox News.
Avenatti said that he doesn’t really care.
“I haven’t used the plane in almost a year and I gave up my interest last year. I have no interest in the plane and could care less.”
Re the “jet seizure” and Fox News’ tabloid journalism – led by moron @ShepNewsTeam: I haven’t used the jet in almost a year and gave up my interest months ago last year. So they have no idea what they are talking about.
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) April 10, 2019
It’s a six-seat business jet that was flown by a private contract pilot to Chino Municipal Airport. It’s now being held there by Threshold Aviation.
According to federal records, the plane was bought on Jan. 30, 2017 and was registered to Passport 420. It’s a company co-owned by Avenatti.
Avenatti bristled at the idea that some people might tie the name of his company in with a drug.
And I almost forgot @ShepNewsTeam – “420” is the model number of the plane not some reference to “marijuana” (oh, horrors). Why are you and your cohorts always so uptight in public but then in private… #Hypocrites
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) April 10, 2019
According to a government complaint, Avenatti’s wife, Lisa-Storie Avenatti, said he owned two private jets. She says one is owned through Avenatti & Associates and the other through Passport 420. Each is said to have a value of $4.5 million.
Avenatti dispute this in a statement to Fox:
“I have never owned two planes either directly or indirectly and any claim to the contrary is complete nonsense.”
The warrant itself for the seizure of the plane is under seal. Prosecutors haven’t said whether the jet was seized to satisfy a judgement, in connection with non-payment of taxes or as part of a broader investigation.
Last month, Avenatti was accused of failing to pay income taxes for almost a decade despite making $18 million since 2010.
In addition, officials say his firm recorded $38 million in deposits but filed no tax returns.
Last month, federal prosecutors in Manhattan charged Avenatti with trying to extort more than $20 million from Nike.
His co-conspirator? According to The Wall Street Journal it is celebrity attorney and CNN analyst Mark Geragos… a lawyer famous for representing clients like Michael Jackson, Jussie Smollett and Colin Kaepernick.
The criminal complaint details how Avenatti allegedly met in March 2019 with an attorney for Nike. The complaint says he threatened to release damaging information about the company, unless Nike made millions in payments to himself and another unnamed co-conspirator.
The complaint says Avenatti also demanded a payment of $1.5 million by Nike to someone he claimed to represent.
An FBI agent wrote in a court filing, that Avenatti said he would hold a press conference alleging misconduct at Nike unless he and another lawyer were paid between $15 million and $25 million to conduct an internal investigation… either that or were given $22.5 million to resolve their client’s claims and in exchange for their silence.
According to the complaint, Avenatti said:
“I’ll go take $10 billion dollars off your client’s market cap…I’m not f***ing around”.
Prosecutors from the Southern District of New York said Avenatti tried to get the cash by:
“threatening to use his ability to garner publicity to inflict substantial financial & reputational harm on the company if his demands were not met.”
According to the FBI agent, the threat was made to a Nike representative.
“Full confidentiality, we ride off into the sunset.”
And if they didn’t? According to the document, here’s what said would happen if Nike didn’t comply with his demands:
“If we don’t reach a resolution … as soon as this becomes public, I am going to receive calls from all over the country from parents and coaches and friends and all kinds of people — this is always what happens — and they are all going to say I’ve got an email or a text message or — now 90% of that is going to be bullshit because it’s always bullshit 90% of the time, always, whether it’s R. Kelly or Trump, the list goes on and on — but 10% of it is actually going to be true, and then what’s going to happen is that this is going to snowball.”
“And every time we got more information, that’s going to be The Washington Post, The New York Times, ESPN, a press conference, and the company will die — not die, but they are going to incur cut after cut after cut after cut, and that’s what’s going to happen as soon as this thing becomes public,” Avenatti said, according to prosecutors.
Looks like Avenatti won’t be able to follow through with a Tweet he sent out earlier Monday:
“Tmrw at 11 am ET, we will be holding a press conference to disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by @Nike that we have uncovered. This criminal conduct reaches the highest levels of Nike and involves some of the biggest names in college basketball.”
Tmrw at 11 am ET, we will be holding a press conference to disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by @Nike that we have uncovered. This criminal conduct reaches the highest levels of Nike and involves some of the biggest names in college basketball.
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) March 25, 2019
But that’s not all.
Prosecutors in California say Avenatti stole a client’s $1.6 million settlement and spent the money on personal expenses and debts. They say he also used it to run his law firm along with his former coffee business, Tully’s Coffee, which had locations in Los Angeles and Seattle.
It gets better. He’s also accused of defrauding a bank in Mississippi by using fake tax returns to borrow $4.1 million. But get this – the feds say he ever even filed personal tax returns for 2011, 2012 and 2013… and that he still owes the IRS more than $850,000 in unpaid taxes, penalties and interest for 2009 and 2010.
You may remember that Avenatti represented adult-film actress Stormy Daniels until recently. She was a central figure in the hush-money scandal that lead to Manhattan federal prosecutors charging the president’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen. Cohen pleaded guilty and will start a prison sentence in May.
Avenatti tried to get in on the “attack Kavanaugh with fake accusations” game during the nomination confirmation hearings for the now Supreme Court Justice. It was around the same time he said he’d be running for president against Donald Trump in 2020. Clearly that didn’t go well. A couple of months later, he announced he wouldn’t actually be running for president.
“I do not make this decision lightly — I make it out of respect for my family,” said Avenatti.
The twice-married lawyer has three children.
“But for their concerns, I would run,” he said in a statement posted on Twitter.
Please see my statement below regarding 2020. pic.twitter.com/ztCfZUY6hA
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) December 4, 2018
Avenatti had initially announced his consideration for a run last July, saying:
“only if I think that there is no candidate in the race that has a real chance of beating him.”
Shortly after announcing his decision not to run for the White House, Avenatti was infuriated by data science journalist Nate Silver and went after him on Twitter. This, after Silver pointed out that Avenatti was “polling at 1 percent” among potential presidential contenders.
Nate – this just goes to show you really don't know what you are talking about. 1) Trump polled at 0-3% until June of 2015 (polls rt now mean nothing); 2) I have not been charged with anything; 3) I have travelled to over 20 states in 4 mos – Dems want a fighter to beat Trump.
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) December 4, 2018
The combative litigator went on to become a daily presence on cable news networks, also raising cash for Democrat candidates for other offices.
So why did he decide not to run? It might have had something to do with his arrest by Los Angeles police on accusations of domestic violence by Mareli Miniutti, an actress with whom he had been living.
He of course denied those claims as “completely bogus” and still hasn’t been criminally charged. The LA City Attorney’s Office continues that investigation as a possible misdemeanor charge, after the DA declined to file a felony charge.
Then, of course, there are the cash flow issues.
Avenatti is in the middle of a number of legal fights related to debts that involve his law firm. Then there was the suit by President Trump to recoup hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees from a since-dismissed defamation lawsuit by Daniels against the president.
After the attack on then Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, referred claims made by Avenatti and his client Julie Swetnick to the Justice Department for criminal investigation.
Well, Grassley cited “contradictions” between what Swetnick had told the Judiciary Committee and what she told NBC. That testimony was surrounding her claims that decades ago, she saw Kavanaugh spike drinks at parties so girls could be gang raped
Kavanaugh denied those claims, which were later demonstrated to be untrue.
Avenatti encouraged the Justice Department to bring it on, and accused Gassley of not caring about those claims.
Then Daniels publicly said she was going to drop Avenatti as her attorney.
She said he “has not treated me with the respect and deference an attorney should show a client.”
She went on to say he had “spoken on my behalf without my approval” and had “filed a defamation case against Donald Trump against my wishes,” and then launched “a new crowdfunding campaign using my name and face without my permission.”
Earlier this month, Stormy Daniels followed through on that. She hired a new attorney.
I have retained Clark Brewster as my personal lawyer and have asked him and his firm to review all legal matters involving me. Upon completion of Mr. Brewster's review and further consultation with me, I anticipate Mr. Brewster will serve as my primary counsel on all legal issues
— Stormy Daniels (@StormyDaniels) March 12, 2019
Daniels’ new lawyer is an Oklahoma based attorney named Clark Brewster.
“I’ve started reviewing these matters about two weeks ago and I will be replacing Mr. Avenatti,” Brewster told CNBC.
Avenatti disputes who fired who. He said in his own tweet he had told Daniels in writing on Feb. 19 that “we were terminating our representation of her for various reasons that we cannot disclose due to the attorney-client privilege.”
“This was not a decision we made lightly and it came only after lengthy discussion, thought and deliberation, as well as with consultation with other professionals,” Avenatti wrote on Twitter. “We wish Stormy all the best.”
Please see below statement relating to our representation of Stormy Daniels. pic.twitter.com/RgXd4DXf4X
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) March 12, 2019
Avenatti has long been engaged in work against the Republican party, going all the way back to college and later in law school when he worked for The Research Group, a political opposition research and media firm run by Rahm Emanuel, who later went on to become White House Chief of Staff for President Barack Obama and Mayor of Chicago.