LOS ANGELES (AP) — U.S. prosecutors on two coasts have charged President Donald Trump critic and attorney Michael Avenatti with extortion and bank and wire fraud.
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles said Avenatti was arrested Monday in New York.
Spokesman Ciaran McEvoy says the lawyer best known for representing porn actress Stormy Daniels in lawsuits against Trump faces federal charges in New York and California.
In the New York case, he was accused of threatening to use his ability to get publicity to harm the sports apparel giant Nike.
In the California case, Avenatti's arrest was pursuant to a criminal complaint alleging he embezzled a client's money in order to pay his own expenses and debts — as well as those of his coffee business and law firm — and also defrauded a bank by using phony tax returns to obtain millions of dollars in loans. A felony complaint charges him with wire and bank fraud.
In the New York case, Avenatti was charged with conspiracy to transmit interstate communications with intent to extort, conspiracy to commit extortion, transmission of interstate communications with intent to extort and extortion. The charges carry a potential penalty of 47 years in prison.
The complaint said Avenatti threatened to hold a news conference on the eve of Nike's quarterly earnings call and the start of the NCAA tournament to announce allegations of misconduct by Nike employees.
Avenatti and a co-conspirator demanded to be paid a minimum of $15 to $25 million and an additional $1.5 million for an Avenatti client to remain silent, the complaint said.
The court papers said the co-conspiracy, who was not identified in court papers, is also an attorney licensed to practice in California. It said the co-conspirator, like Avenatti, represents celebrities and public figures.
The court papers said the client is a coach of an amateur athletic union men's basketball program in California. The complaint said the AAU program coached by the Avenatti client was sponsored by Nike for $72,000 annually.
Avenatti tweeted at 12:16 p.m., east coast time, that he planned to hold a news conference regarding Nike on Tuesday morning. Less than 45 minutes later, prosecutors announced the extortion charges.
Tmrw at 11 am ET, we will be holding a press conference to disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by @Nike that we have uncovered. This criminal conduct reaches the highest levels of Nike and involves some of the biggest names in college basketball.— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) March 25, 2019
Avenatti represented Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, in a lawsuit to break a confidentiality agreement to speak about her alleged affair with Trump.
This is a developing story. Stay with WPTV for updates.