Michael Avenatti, the brash lawyer recently sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison a $25 million extortion case in New York, is expected to face a trial Wednesday in California on charges he embezzled millions from his clients.
Federal prosecutors in Southern California have accused Avenatti, who is currently suspended from practicing law in California, of cheating five of his clients out of nearly $10 million by negotiating and collecting settlement payments on their behalf and funneling them to accounts he controlled. In one case, authorities said Avenatti collected $4 million from Los Angeles County for a man who suffered injuries in custody and was left paraplegic after a suicide attempt.
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Avenatti denied the settlement was received and paid much smaller amounts to the man ranging from $1,000 to $1,900, which he said were advances on the broader settlement, prosecutors said in court filings. In another instance, Avenatti collected a $2.75 million settlement payment for a client and used the bulk of the money to buy a private airplane, the filings said. Avenatti faces 10 counts of wire fraud in connection with the allegations. He also faces charges in California of bankruptcy, bank and tax fraud.
Opening statements are scheduled in Santa Ana in the second trial this month for Avenatti, who once represented Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against President Donald Trump. Avenatti is expected to represent himself in the case after his request to do so was approved. In this trial, federal prosecutors said they expect to take three weeks to make their case and to call about 30 witnesses [ABC].