Michael Avenatti, who is best known as a celebrity lawyer, was arrested Monday after he allegedly tried to extort $25 million from Nike. Avenatti said he would go public with a claim that the company’s employees were paying top high school athletes, a claim that was never proven. If convicted, Avenatti could face up to 100 years in prison.
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Federal prosecutors in Manhattan charged Avenatti with wire and bank fraud. On the same day, Avenatti was also charged with embezzlement after it was discovered he was using client’s money “in order to pay his own expenses and debts.”
According to CNN, Avenatti was released on $300,000 bail Monday night. Outside the jail, the celebrity lawyer expressed that he expects to be “fully exonerated.” Sources indicate that no actual money was handed over for bail so it is unclear if Avenatti used his personal property as collateral.
On March 19th, Avenatti met with Nike where he threatened to release damaging documents that outlined employees at Nike were paying student athletes. In fact, Avenatti intended to release this damaging information on the eve of the NCAA Tournament, which could have cost the company an exorbitant amount of money.
After receiving this threat, Nike called their lawyer to inform them of what happened. Law enforcement was also informed, and Nike was told to have Avenatti come back in so they could record him making the threats, The Daily Mail reported.
“I’ll go take $10 billion off your client’s market cap … I’m not f***ing around,” the complaint read. “And I’m not continuing to play games,” he added. “You guys know enough now to know you’ve got a serious problem. And it’s worth more in exposure to me to just blow the lid on this thing.”
He then proclaimed his innocence outside the court steps. “For the entirety of my career, I have fought against the powerful — powerful people and powerful corporations,” Avenatti told the press after he was released. “I will never stop fighting that good fight.”
Avenatti is best known for his time representing former adult film actress Stormy Daniels after she launched a lawsuit against Donald Trump.