The hits keep on coming for celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti, as he was accused of pocketing $2.5 million from a 2017 settlement involving NBA center Hassan Whiteside. Whiteside wired payment to Avenatti of $2.75 million of a $3 million settlement intended towards his ex-girlfriend and Avenatti’s client, Alexis Gardner.
According to a report by the Los Angeles Times, Avenatti hid the payments from Gardner and used that money to buy a share towards a private jet. Bank statements and records were revealed during an April 10 indictment of the lawyer in Santa Ana, which includes 36 counts of perjury, tax evasion, and fraud.
“We entered into a mutually agreed upon settlement more than two years ago following the end of our relationship; a settlement that reflected Alexis’ investment of time and support over a number of years as Hassan pursued a career in the NBA,” in a joint statement by Whiteside and Gardner told the LA Times.
“It is unfortunate that something that was meant to be kept private between us is now being publicly reported. We have both moved on amicably and wish nothing but the best for each other.”
The Los Angeles-based attorney has been mired in a number of embezzlement cases, stealing millions from over five clients. Of most heinous of thefts, Avenatti would defraud nearly $4 million from a paraplegic client, Geoffrey Ernest Johnson.
Avenatti also faces a separate federal case in New York with four counts of extortion and conspiracy for when he demanded money from Nike. The charges, that were set in March, alleged that the lawyer attempted to strongarm the sneaker company under the threat of revealing payments made to high school basketball players. The attorney wanted more than $25 million from Nike, for which he claims he would use those funds to further investigate against them.
If convicted on all charges from both cases, Avenatti could up to 50 years in prison.