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Michael Avenatti sentenced to 14 years for stealing from clients

CBS News 12/5/2022 Kathryn Watson

Michael Avenatti, the suspended and incarcerated lawyer who once represented Stormy Daniels, was sentenced Monday to 14 years in federal prison for defrauding four of his clients out of millions of dollars and obstructing the IRS' attempts to collect payroll taxes from his coffee business.

He must also pay $10.8 million in restitution to his clients and to the IRS. U.S. District Judge James V. Selna ordered that the 14-year sentence be imposed consecutively to sentences Avenatti is already serving that total 5 years. 

Avenatti is currently serving time in a Southern California prison after he was convicted of stealing proceeds from Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress he represented in her legal fight with former President Donald Trump. Avenatti was also convicted for trying to extort millions of dollars from Nike

Avenatti's latest sentencing follows his guilty plea in June to a tax-related charge and four counts of wire fraud. At the time, he said he wanted to spare his family from any additional embarrassment. 

Michael Avenatti / Credit: John Minchillo / AP © Provided by CBS News Michael Avenatti / Credit: John Minchillo / AP

At the sentencing Monday, the judge said Avenatti "has done great evil for which he must answer." One of the clients Avenatti stole from was a paraplegic man with mental health issues, prosecutors noted. The Justice Department says Avenatti represented  that man, Geoffrey Johnson, in a lawsuit against Los Angeles County, but didn't tell Johnson about the $4 million settlement he received and used the money for himself. 

"Michael Avenatti was a corrupt lawyer who claimed he was fighting for the little guy," said U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada in a statement. "In fact, he only cared about his own selfish interests. He stole millions of dollars from his clients — all to finance his extravagant lifestyle that included a private jet and race cars. As a result of his illegal acts, he has lost his right to practice law in California, and now he will serve a richly deserved prison sentence."

An attorney for Avenatti, H. Dean Steward, called the sentencing "'off the charts' harsh and unfair. Compared to other high profile fraud cases, the sentence imposed was totally uncalled for."

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