Michael Avenatti indicted on 36 federal charges

Celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti arrives for his first hearing in Santa Ana federal court on bank and wire fraud charges

Michael Avenatti charged in 36-count federal indictment

The new charges follow Avenatti's arrest in NY last month for allegedly trying to shake down Nike for up to $25 million and on two counts of wire and bank fraud from Southern California, where his firm is based.

The grand jury also accused Avenatti of lying to the IRS about his pocketing of almost $2.4 million in taxes withheld from the paychecks of employees of Global Baristas U.S., which operated Tully's coffee stores in Washington and California.

"Money generated from one set of crimes was used to further other crimes, typically in the form of payments created to string along victims so as to prevent Mr. Avenatti's financial house of cards from collapsing", U.S. Attorney Nicola Hanna in Los Angeles said Thursday at a press conference.

In one of those instances, he said, Avenatti took some $2.5 million of a client's settlement money and put it toward a private jet.

Federal agents seized the Honda HA-420 jet at Santa Barbara Airport on Wednesday under a court-approved warrant that remains under seal, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the us attorney's office in Los Angeles.

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Prosecutors say Avenatti misled clients and misused their funds to pay personal and legal expenses, finance a coffee shop business he also ran, and pay for his share of a Honda private jet, according to the indictment. Avenatti used some clients' money to pay previous clients he had swindled and "pay some of his law firm's bankruptcy creditors, including the IRS", according to the USA attorney's office.

Avenatti is also accused of failing to pay income taxes - in fact, the federal probe that led to Thursday's indictment began as an IRS investigation in September 2016, as officials were trying to collect debts from Avenatti's coffee business, Tully's Coffee.

Avenatti, who is reportedly free on a $300,000 bond, tweeted Thursday morning that he has "made many powerful enemies" throughout his legal career and intends to plead not guilty to the charges against him. "I look forward to the entire truth being known as opposed to a one-sided version meant to sideline me", Avenatti wrote in one tweet. They allege that Avenatti drained a $4 million settlement payment from his law firm's trust account and used portions of it for the coffee business, but also concealed the receipt of the settlement from his client, a paraplegic who had sued Los Angeles County.

Avenatti waived his right to a preliminary hearing in federal court in Santa Ana.

Avenatti also failed to file tax returns for both of his law firms, Eagan Avenatti and Avenatti & Associates, in 2015, 2016 and 2017, the government charged.

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Avenatti attacked the allegation in a social media post Thursday. In one example in the indictment, Avenatti answered "no" under oath during the proceeding when asked if his firm received any fees from the Super Bowl NFL litigation.

Prosecutors say he submitted phony tax returns and financial statements to Peoples Bank of MS to secure more than $4.1 million in business loans.

Avenatti hasn't been indicted in NY.

The indictment also accuses Avenatti of having failed to file multiple individual income tax returns, saying the last such return he filed with the IRS was in 2010.

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