Michael Avenatti, a pugnacious anti Trump attorney, was arrested Monday on charges that included trying to shake down Nike for as much as $25 million by threatening the company with bad publicity.
Avenatti, who was also accused of embezzling a client’s money to pay his own expenses, was charged with extortion and bank and wire fraud in separate cases in New York and California. He was arrested in New York just minutes after tweeting that he planned to hold a news conference Tuesday to “disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by @Nike that we have uncovered.”
“When lawyers use their law licenses as weapons, as a guise to extort payments for themselves, they are no longer acting as attorneys. They are acting as criminals,” said Geoffrey S. Berman, the U.S. attorney in New York.
The allegations “paint an ugly picture of lawless conduct and greed,” said Nick Hanna, the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles. Avenatti describes himself on Twitter as an attorney and advocate, but the accusations describe “a corrupt lawyer who instead fights for his own selfish interests.”
Prosecutors in New York said their investigation began only last week and was complete in days.