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Michael Avenatti Sentenced to 14 Years for Tax Fraud and Stealing Millions of Dollars from Clients

People 12/6/2022 Charmaine Patterson

Michael Avenatti wearing a suit and tie: Spencer Platt/Getty Attorney Michael Avenatti © Provided by People Spencer Platt/Getty Attorney Michael Avenatti

Disgraced celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti has been sentenced to 14 years in prison for blocking the IRS's attempt to collect $3 million in unpaid taxes, and stealing millions from his clients, the Department of Justice announced on Monday.

In its release, the DOJ said the suspended lawyer received "168 months in federal prison for stealing millions of dollars from his clients – one of whom was a paraplegic with mental health issues – and for obstructing the IRS's efforts to collect more than $3 million in payroll taxes from an Avenatti-owned coffee business."

In June, Avenatti, 51, pled guilty to four counts of wire fraud and one count of endeavoring to obstruct the administration of the Internal Revenue Code.

U.S. District Judge James V. Selna said while sentencing the disgraced lawyer, who has been in jail since February, that he "has done great evil for which he must answer." He went on to order Avenatti to pay $10,810,709 in restitution to the IRS and four clients.

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This sentence will start after the four-year sentence he is currently serving for identity theft and defrauding former client Stormy Daniels and trying to extort Nike.

"Michael Avenatti was a corrupt lawyer who claimed he was fighting for the little guy. In fact, he only cared about his own selfish interests," said United States Attorney Martin Estrada in the department's release. "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."

Avenatti stole from clients after he was given money on their behalf to be put into a trust, and misused the money as he lied to his clients and said he never got the funds. He also told one client that he already sent them the money. He stole a total of $7.6 million, the DOJ added.

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As for the charges related to taxes, Avenatti "corruptly obstructed and impeded the IRS's efforts" to recover more than $3.2 million in unpaid taxes for his Tully's Coffee business from 2011 to 2017, the DOJ said.

It noted that he told his staff to not deposit cash receipts and even changed the company's name and details like bank information in an effort to avoid the IRS.

Tyler Hatcher, the Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation's Los Angeles Field Office, added, "Michael Avenatti violated the trust placed in him by his clients. Instead of helping his clients receive the compensation that they were owed and needed, he pocketed the money, stealing from people who were already hurting. The money was used to fuel a lavish lifestyle that had no limits."

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Continued Hatcher: "While today's sentencing concludes the government's case against Mr. Avenatti, the enormous damage left behind will be felt by his former clients for quite some time. It is our sincere hope that his victims will take some solace in the fact that he has been held accountable for his criminal actions."

In June, Avenatti was sentenced to 48 months in prison after being found guilty of identity theft and stealing from the 43-year-old adult film star, Daniels.

In February, a Manhattan jury found Avenatti guilty of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

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Avenatti stole around $300,000 of the $800,000 advance paid to Daniels for her October 2018 book, Full Disclosure, about her alleged affair with Donald Trump prior to his presidency.

Daniels had previously hired Avenatti after accepting a $130,000 hush payment deal from Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen that had prohibited her from speaking about the alleged sexual encounter in public. (Trump, for his part, has denied the affair with Daniels, despite acknowledging their non-disclosure agreement.)

The lawyer-client relationship fell apart after Daniels discovered Avenatti had kept some of the money from her book deal for himself.

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