Michael Avenatti, the disgraced lawyer who became a media darling after targeting former President Donald Trump, was sentenced on Monday to 14 years in prison for stealing millions of dollars from his clients and trying to obstruct the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) from collecting millions in unpaid payroll taxes.
Avenatti’s sentencing comes after he pleaded guilty to four counts of wire fraud and one count of trying to obstruct the administration of the federal tax code in June. Avenatti faced a statutory maximum of 83 years in prison in this case.
United States Attorney Martin Estrada said in a statement after the sentencing:
Michael Avenatti was a corrupt lawyer who claimed he was fighting for the little guy. In fact, he only cared about his own selfish interests. He stole millions of dollars from his clients – all to finance his extravagant lifestyle that included a private jet and race cars. As a result of his illegal acts, he has lost his right to practice law in California, and now he will serve a richly deserved prison sentence.
One of Avenatti’s victims was a man who received a $4 million settlement from Los Angeles County after being paralyzed from injuries he sustained in law enforcement’s custody, prosecutors alleged in the 36-count indictment.
Avenatti used the funds to finance his coffee business and personal expenses instead of giving his client the settlement. He ended up paying his client “advances” of no more than $1,900 at a time.
Avenatti also received a $3 million settlement for another client of his but used most of the settlement funds to purchase a private jet. Avenatti then lied to his client and said the settlement would be paid out in monthly installments.
Avenatti also owed the IRS more than $3 million in payroll taxes from his coffee business but tried to interfere with the IRS’s collection effort.
Avenatti is already serving a five-year prison sentence for stealing nearly $300,000 in book proceeds from his former client, Stormy Daniels, and attempting to extort $25 million from Nike.
United States District Judge James V. Selna on Monday ordered Avenatti’s 14-year sentence to “run consecutive to sentences totaling five years previously imposed in two federal cases in the Southern District of New York.”
Selna also ordered Avenatti to pay nearly $11 million in restitution to four of his clients and the IRS.
Dean Steward, an attorney for Avenatti, told CNN Avenatti’s sentence “was overly harsh and uncalled for.”
“When compared with similar high-profile cases, the unfairness is glaring,” Steward claimed.