On Friday, Michael Avenatti was convicted "of swiping nearly $300,000 in book-advance money from his then-client Stormy Daniels" and faces a maximum of 22 years in prison for wire fraud and aggravated identity theft charges, according to the NY Post.
Avenatti was accused by prosecutors of stealing two book-advance payments from his then-client Stormy Daniels in 2018 totaling around $300,000, according to the New York Post.
That year, Stephanie Clifford, whose porn star name is Stormy Daniels, landed a book deal with St. Martin’s Press "after it was revealed she was paid $130,000 in hush money before the 2016 presidential election to keep quiet about an alleged sexual encounter she had with Donald Trump years earlier," according to the New York Post.
Prosecutors were able to show that Avenatti forged Daniels’ name on a letter to her literary agent directing him to wire two payments meant for Daniels into a bank account controlled by Avenatti.
Daniels told the jury that she had not given Avenatti permission to keep the money owed to her through the book contract.
"He stole from me and lied to me," she said on the witness stand, adding that Avenatti had promised her he would "never take a penny from me for the book."
When Daniels didn’t receive payments from the publisher on time, she wrote to Avenatti, expressing her frustration, according to text messages shown.
"I did not get paid today. I am not f–king happy," she said in one of the messages. This was sent around a month after she was supposed to receive her second payment in 2018.
"The publisher owes me a payment … This is bulls–t," she wrote in another message.
Avenatti said that he would "figure out" what happened with Daniels payment, "even though he had already received and spent the money," according to the New York Post.
"The defendant was a lawyer who stole from his own client. She thought he was her advocate, but he betrayed her and he told lies to try to cover it all up," prosecutor Robert Sobelman said. "He stole from her. He lied to her over and over and over again. All to steal and spend money that was not his. The defendant is guilty."
Avenatti, who represented himself in the trial, stated that he is innocent and that Daniels had owed him money because of the work he and his firm did for her.
He also claimed that the case against him was full of holes, likening it to a meal with a "cockroach in the middle of the plate."
"She’s not credible," Avenatti told jurors in his closing argument Wednesday.
This is the second sentence handed to Avenatti in recent years. In 2020, Avenatti was convicted in the same federal court of attempting to extort footwear giant Nike to the tune of $25 million.
Correction: An earlier version of the story said that Avenatti was sentenced. It has been revised to show that he has been convicted but not yet sentenced.