Federal prosecutors say California attorney Michael Avenatti owed at least $15 million to creditors when he allegedly tried to extort $25 million out of Nike, and that the former lawyer for porn star Stormy Daniels was desperately seeking a payout.
What are the details?
"The Government expects that the evidence at trial will show that, at the time of his charged conduct, the defendant was in significant debt," Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Podolsky wrote in a filing to a Manhattan federal court this week, the New York Post reported.
"Specifically, the Government presently estimates that the defendant's debts at that time were, conservatively, in excess of $15 million," Podolsky continued, telling the judge the prosecution seeks to present evidence to "establish [Avenatti's] desperation for money at the time and thus motive."
According to the Post, prosecutors further claim "Avenatti's financial troubles also include payments owed to two ex-wives, a former law partner and his celebrity onetime lawyer, Mark Geragos."
Avenatti, who has had a string of legal troubles over the past year or so, issued a statement to Reuters in reaction to the prosecution's assertions, saying, "Any claim that I was $15 million in debt is completely bogus, ludicrous and absurd. I can't wait for the trial in this case, at which point the TRUTH and FACTS will come out and I will be fully exonerated."
Avenatti was arrested in March for allegedly trying to extort tens of millions out of Nike, Inc. by threatening to release damaging information about the company.
The attorney was charged with wire fraud and extortion less than an hour after he took to Twitter to announce he would hold a news conference and expose "criminal conduct (that) reaches the highest levels of Nike and involves some of the biggest names in college basketball."
Tmrw at 11 am ET, we will be holding a press conference to disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal… https://t.co/8lkXApGeCo— Michael Avenatti (@Michael Avenatti) 1553530608.0
The Associated Press reported that the criminal trial against Avenatti involving his alleged extortion of Nike is scheduled to begin Jan. 22.
The outlet noted, "For Avenatti, it is the first of three scheduled trials in the next five months. He has denied all charges."