Attorney Michael Avenatti, who represented adult film star Stormy Daniels in her legal battles against U.S. President Donald Trump, was arrested on Monday and charged with extorting more than $20 million from Nike, federal prosecutors said.
The U.S. Attorneys offices in New York and Los Angeles separately filed charges against Avenatti, with the California case accusing him of embezzling a client’s money to cover his own debts, as well as using phony tax returns to obtain millions of dollars in loans from a bank.
Avenatti threatened to expose allegations of misconduct from Nike employees unless the apparel company paid him and an unnamed co-conspirator $22.5 million to “buy Avenatti‘s silence,” the New York complaint said.
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In a March 20 follow-up call with Nike’s lawyers, Avenatti said that if his demands were not met, “I’ll go take ten billion dollars off your client’s market cap … I’m not fucking around,” according to the complaint.
The charges were revealed shortly after Avenatti said on Twitter that he would hold a news conference on Tuesday to reveal “a major high school/college basketball scandal” that reached “the highest levels of Nike.”
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Avenatti gained international fame for representing Daniels, the pornstar whom Trump is accused of paying off shortly before the 2016 election to keep quiet about an alleged affair. Trump has denied having an affair with Daniels.
Nike did not immediately respond to a request for comment.