Michael Avenatti sentenced to 14 years in prison for customer fraud, tax evasion

SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) — Former celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti, who rose to fame representing adult film actress Stormy Daniels in his litigation against former President Donald Trump, was sentenced in Orange County to 14 years in federal prison for tax evasion and electronics.

U.S. District Judge James Selna said Avenatti’s sentence would be consecutive to — or in addition to — the five years he is already serving for convictions in New York for an extortion scheme against Nike and for robbing Daniels. He has been in prison since February.

Avenatti, 51, was convicted on Monday of “defrauding his customers and obstructing the IRS’s efforts to collect payroll taxes from his coffee business,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said on Twitter. He was ordered to pay nearly $11 million in restitution to four clients and the Internal Revenue Service after pleading guilty in June to four counts of wire fraud and one count of tax evasion.

Federal prosecutors in Santa Ana had asked Selna to impose a 17-and-a-half-year sentence, while Avenatti only pleaded for six years. Prosecutors presented in court with the lavish lifestyle Avenatti led with the stolen money, including the purchase of a private jet and sports cars, as the customers he stole struggled to make ends meet.

Geoffrey Johnson was one of two victims to give a statement in court.

“I learned not to trust people more than they deserve,” he said.

In his khaki prison uniform, the once boastful celebrity attorney broke down in tears in federal court and pleaded for a pardon – just before being sentenced to 14 years in prison.

In their sentencing recommendation, federal prosecutors said Avenatti’s schemes followed a “broad pattern” in which he “would lie about the true terms of the settlement agreement he negotiated for the client, conceal payments settlement that the counterparty had made, would secretly take and spend the settlement proceeds that belonged to the customer, and induce the customer not to complain or to investigate further by providing small advances on funds supposedly yet to be paid.”

Prosecutors called Avenatti a ‘tax cheat’ and cited his inability to pay payroll taxes after his company acquired bankrupt Tully’s Coffee, then obstructed the IRS when the agency tried to collect the amount owed .

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