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Attorney Michael Avenatti sentenced to 14 years for tax and wire fraud

CBS Sacramento 12/5/2022 CBSLA Staff

Attorney Michael Avenatti, 51,  who rose to fame representing adult-film actress Stormy Daniels in her litigation against former President Donald Trump, was sentenced in Orange County today to 14 years in federal prison for tax and wire fraud.

The sentence will run consecutively to the five years he is already serving for convictions in New York for an extortion scheme against Nike and for stealing from Daniels.

Federal prosecutors in Santa Ana asked for a 17.5 year term, while Avenatti was arguing for only six years. Avenatti also argued, unsuccessfuly, that his sentence in Orange County run concurrent with the punishment he is already serving for the New York cases.

In their sentencing recommendation, federal prosecutors said Avenatti's schemes followed a "general pattern" in which he "would lie about the true terms of the settlement agreement he had negotiated for the client, conceal the settlement payments that the counterparty had made, secretly take and spend the settlement proceeds that belonged to the client, and lull the client into not complaining or investigating further by providing small `advances' on the supposedly yet-to-be-paid funds."

Prosecutors also said he was a "tax cheat," and cited his failure to pay payroll taxes after his firm acquired Tully's Coffee in bankruptcy and then obstructed the IRS when the agency attempted to collect the amount due.

Prosecutors argued that Avenatti stole $12.35 million from his clients, failed to pay about $3.2 million in payroll taxes from his coffee company, and $1.6 million in payroll taxes from his law firm.

Avenatti argued he has taken steps to show his acceptance of responsibility with the letters of apology to his victims and by relinquishing any rights he had to a private jet he purchased with money he stole from clients.

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