Federal prosecutors in Manhattan on Monday charged lawyer Michael Avenatti with attempting to extort more than $20 million from Nike.
Avenatti was arrested Monday morning in Manhattan, law enforcement officials tell CNN. He will appear in court later Monday.
Minutes after the news broke, the Justice Department announced charges against Avenatti in a separate federal case from California.
According to the criminal complaint, Avenatti met in March 2019 with an attorney for Nike and threatened to release damaging information about the company if Nike didn’t make millions in payment to himself and an unnamed co-conspirator. Avenatti also allegedly demanded that Nike pay $1.5 million to an individual he claimed to represent.
“I’ll go take $10 billion dollars off your client’s market cap … I’m not f***ing around,” Avenatti said, according to the complaint.
“And I’m not continuing to play games,” he added. “You guys know enough now to know you’ve got a serious problem and it’s worth more in exposure to me to just blow the lid on this thing.”
Until recently, Avenatti represented adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, a central figure in the hush-money scandal that resulted in Manhattan federal prosecutors charging President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen. Cohen pleaded guilty and is set to report to prison in May.
Daniels released a statement on Twitter regarding Avenatti, saying she was “saddened but not shocked” at the news.
“I made the decision more than a month ago to terminate Michael’s services after discovering that he had dealt with me extremely dishonestly and there will be more announcements to come,” she said.
Avenatti and Nike did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Earlier Monday, he tweeted: “Tmrw at 11 am ET, we will be holding a press conference to disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by @Nike that we have uncovered. This criminal conduct reaches the highest levels of Nike and involves some of the biggest names in college basketball.”
The Manhattan US Attorney’s office said it would hold a press conference to discuss the charges on Monday afternoon.
Feds in California announce separate charges
Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles announced separate charges of wire fraud and bank fraud against Avenatti on Monday.
The Justice Department said, in addition to the case filed in New York, Avenatti was arrested “pursuant to a criminal complaint alleging he embezzled a client’s money in order to pay his own expenses and debts — as well as those of his coffee business and law firm — and also defrauded a bank by using phony tax returns to obtain millions of dollars in loans.”
The Justice Department’s announcement said if Avenatti was convicted on both charges, he could face “a statutory maximum sentence of 50 years in federal prison.”
By Erica Orden and Kara Scannell, CNN