California lawyer Michael Avenatti was arrested and charged by federal prosecutors on both coasts, accused in New York of trying to extort millions of dollars from Nike Inc. and in Los Angeles of embezzling money from a client and defrauding a bank.
The charges depict a lawyer desperate for cash and willing to exploit his own clients. In California, prosecutors say he stole a client’s $1.6 million settlement and used it to cover expenses. In New York, he’s accused of telling Nike he’d cancel a press conference critical of the company if it paid an unidentified client $1.5 million and gave him and another attorney as much as $25 million to conduct an internal investigation.
Nike didn’t meet his demands — and instead went to prosecutors.
“I’ll go take ten billion dollars off your client’s market cap. But I’m not f—ing around,” Avenatti told attorneys for Nike in a March 20 phone call, according to a complaint unsealed Monday.
Before news of his charges, Avenatti posted a tweet Monday saying he would be holding a press conference tomorrow to disclose a “major high school/college basketball scandal” perpetrated by Nike that he claimed to have uncovered. “This criminal conduct reaches the highest levels of Nike and involves some of the biggest names in college basketball,” Avenatti said in the tweet.