Luxury-loving lawyer Michael Avenatti was $15 million in debt when he tried to extort Nike, Manhattan federal prosecutors charge in new court papers.
“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 US Attorney Matthew Podolksy wrote in documents filed late Tuesday in Manhattan federal court.
“Specifically, the Government presently estimates that the defendant’s debts at that time were, conservatively, in excess of $15 million.”
In an earlier filing, Avenatti’s lawyers argued that evidence of the alleged debt – including money owed for a race car, Ferrari and Porsche — should be kept out of the courtroom.
Podolksy told the judge that prosecutors want to introduce evidence of his arrears at trial to “establish his desperation for money at that time and thus motive.”
Avenatti’s financial troubles also include payments owed to two ex-wives, a former law partner and his celebrity onetime lawyer, Mark Geragos, prosecutors wrote.
When reached for comment, Avenatti said the government’s assertions about his finances were hogwash.
“Any claim that I had $15 million in debt at the time of my arrest is bogus and absurd,” he said. “I look forward to the trial in this case at which time I will be fully exonerated and the truth will finally be known.”
His lawyer, Scott Srebnick, has argued that the information is irrelevant and would only “invite a jury to engage in class-based bias regarding the defendant’s wealth.”
Avenatti is set to go on trial next month for allegedly trying to shake down the shoe and apparel behemoth on pay-to-play deals the company had with young athletes. He is accused of offering his silence in exchange for a payout of more than $20 million.
He was representing youth basketball coach Gary Franklin at the time, who claimed to have dirt on the sportswear giant’s alleged shady payment practices.
Avenatti became a household name after he repped porn star Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, in her lawsuit against President Trump to invalidate a non-disclosure agreement she signed after they allegedly had an affair.
The suit was dismissed, and Daniels has since severed ties with the lawyer.
The beleaguered lawyer is also facing indictments in New York and California for allegedly stealing settlements from his clients — including Daniels.