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Michael Avenatti accused of embezzling nearly $3 million settlement from Hassan Whiteside

Yahoo! Sports logo Yahoo! Sports 4/22/2019 Liz Roscher
a man wearing a suit and tie: Michael Avenatti has been accused of stealing settlement money from clients, including the ex-girlfriend of Miami Heat player Hassan Whiteside. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) © Provided by Oath Inc. Michael Avenatti has been accused of stealing settlement money from clients, including the ex-girlfriend of Miami Heat player Hassan Whiteside. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

When Michael Avenatti’s name pops up these days, you can be pretty sure it’s not for a good reason.

The embattled attorney became even more embattled over the weekend when the L.A. Times reported that he took a significant portion of a $3 million settlement that was meant for one of his clients, Alexis Gardner, from her ex-boyfriend, Hassan Whiteside.

Whiteside, who plays for the Miami Heat, made the settlement deal with Gardner after she contacted him about a potential lawsuit. It’s not known what Gardner, who is an actress and barista according to the Times, would have sued him for.

Avenatti was entitled to $1 million of the $3 million settlement to cover legal fees. To meet the terms of the deal, Whiteside wired Avenatti the first payment of $2.75 million, which Avenatti was then supposed to pass on to Gardner. However, the settlement never made it to her. Prosecutors allege that Avenatti hid the payment and took $2.75 million to buy a share of a private jet.

Gardner isn’t the only client from whom Avenatti is accused of embezzling. He’s also accused of stealing settlement money from a makeup artist with a large YouTube following and a mentally ill paraplegic.

Avenatti responded to the L.A. Times on Sunday via email, saying that he’s looking forward to all the facts coming out at trial. He also said that “the clients complaining are a very small fraction of the thousands of clients I have serviced over my nearly 20-year career.”

That just a “very small fraction” of his clients are accusing him of embezzlement doesn’t mean that Avenatti is innocent by any stretch of the imagination. And let’s not forget that Avenatti is also accused of trying to extort Nike, along with other crimes like tax evasion, bank fraud, and bankruptcy fraud. Avenatti is accused of a veritable smorgasbord of white-collar crimes.

Whiteside released a statement about the settlement through his agent, via the L.A. Times:

“We entered into a mutually agreed upon settlement more than two years ago following the end of our relationship; a settlement that reflected Alexis’ investment of time and support over a number of years as Hassan pursued a career in the NBA,” Whiteside and Gardner told the Los Angeles Times in a statement released by his agent.

“It is unfortunate that something that was meant to be kept private between us is now being publicly reported. We have both moved on amicably and wish nothing but the best for each other.”

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