Michael Avenatti, the disgraced celebrity lawyer and fierce Donald Trump critic, is scheduled to go on trial Monday in Manhattan for allegedly swindling ex-porn star Stormy Daniels out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Avenatti is accused of fleecing Daniels – his former client – of about $300,000 in money she stood to collect for a 2018 advance on a book about her alleged affair with Trump.
He faces one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft, according to a federal indictment.
In August of 2018, the loudmouth lawyer forged Daniels’ signature on a letter that instructed her literary agent to forward advance money into a bank account he controlled, federal prosecutors allege.
Avenatti used the cash on day-to-day expenses, such as covering payroll for his law firm and a coffee company he owned, federal authorities allege.
He also spent the money on his luxury lifestyle, including a $3,900 monthly lease payment on a Ferrari and more than $20,000 on airfare, hotels, car services, restaurants and other expenses, the feds allege.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, is expected to be called by prosecutors to testify against Avenatti at the trial, a spokesperson for the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York said.
Opening statements are scheduled for Monday morning, but it’s unclear when Daniels will testify.
In a statement, Avenatti denied the charges against him.
“I am completely innocent of these charges. The government is spending millions of dollars to prosecute me for a case that should have never been filed,” he said.
Avenatti and Daniels rose to national fame after it was revealed Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, paid her $130,000 in hush money soon before the 2016 presidential election to keep the lid on her alleged affair with Trump.
Trump denies ever having sex with Daniels.
Avenatti built a reputation in the national media as a Trump antagonist as he represented Daniels, including in a civil suit against the former president. The 2018 suit sought to drop a nondisclosure agreement that Daniels argued was invalid because Trump never signed the document.
Avenatti even once floated a run for president during his time in the spotlight – but his star status came crashing down when he was charged in a number of criminal cases across the country.
In 2020, he was convicted in New York of trying to extort tens of millions of dollars from Nike. He’s also charged in California with bilking other clients out of money.
His trial in Manhattan federal court is expected to wrap up by Feb. 18, a spokesperson for the US Attorney’s Office said.
If convicted on both counts, Avenatti faces a maximum of 22 years in prison.
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