Attorney Michael Avenatti was arrested Monday and charged with multiple counts of extortion, fraud, and embezzlement by federal prosecutors in New York and California.
On Monday, Avenatti tweeted that he would hold a press conference Tuesday to announce damning allegations against Nike. An hour later it was announced that Avenatti was arrested in New York after prosecutors said he tried to extort millions from the company.
According to the complaint filed in the Southern District of New York, Avenatti and a co-conspirator told lawyers for the company that they represented a college basketball coach ready to reveal financial payments Nike allegedly made to amateur athletes unless they paid the coach $1.5 million and hired Avenatti and his co-conspirator to conduct an internal investigation for which they would be paid $15 million to $25 million.
“‘I’ll go take ten billion dollars off your client’s market cap ... I’m not fucking around,’” Avenatti reportedly told the attorneys in a conversation recorded by investigators.
The investigation began when Avenatti contacted the Nike attorneys on March 19.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Avenatti’s co-conspirator is celebrity attorney Mark Geragos, best known for representing Colin Kaepernick, Jussie Smollett, Michael Jackson, Winona Ryder, and Scott Peterson. He has not been charged with a crime.
Avenatti also charged in California:
Along with the New York charges, Avenatti was also charged with numerous crimes in Los Angeles. In that case, Avenatti is accused of lying to a client and using that person’s settlement money “to pay his own expenses and debts.”
He was also charged with submitting fake tax returns to a bank in Missississipi in order to get millions in loans.
Avenatti faces up to 100 years in prison if convicted on all charges and could be disbarred as a lawyer.
Avenatti denies allegations, still going after Nike:
Avenatti was released after appearing in a Manhattan federal court and signing a $300,000 personal recognizance bond.
Avenatti vowed that he would be fully exonerated.
“For the entirety of my career, I have fought against the powerful — powerful people and powerful corporations. I will never stop fighting that good fight,” he said when leaving the court. “I will be fully exonerated and justice will be done.”
Avenatti later defended himself in a 3 am tweet.
“I am anxious for people to see what really happened. We never attempted to extort Nike & when the evidence is disclosed, the public will learn the truth about Nike’s crime & coverup,” he wrote.
The following morning he went after Nike again, accusing them of “lying in response to subpoenas” and diverting “attention from their own crimes.”
“Ask DeAndre Ayton and Nike about the cash payments to his mother and others,” he added. “Nike’s attempt at diversion and cover-up will fail miserably once prosecutors realize they have been played by Nike and their lawyers at Boies. This reaches the highest levels of Nike.”