Avenatti, 50, is accused in California of defrauding at least five former clients of his former law firm, including a paraplegic, by stealing nearly $ 10 million in settlement funds from them.
He was originally indicted in 2019 in an indictment with 36 counts including embezzlement, wire fraud, tax evasion, bankruptcy fraud and bank fraud; the current trial concerns only the 10 counts of electronic fraud. The rest of the charges will be tried later.
Avenatti reportedly negotiated settlements on behalf of former clients of his former company, Eagen Avenatti LLP, and then had the proceeds of the settlement deposited into a bank account he controlled, lying to his clients about the terms of the deal to prevent them. to find out the funds had already been paid to him, unduly.
He said at the time of the indictment that “Any claim that money owed to customers has been mismanaged is false nonsense.”
For Avenatti, who has become a national figure during his portrayal of adult film actress Stormy Daniels, the first Los Angeles trial is just one of many more criminal cases he faces.
In addition to a second trial in Los Angeles over the remaining counts in the case involving clients of his former company, he faces another federal criminal trial in New York next year for deceiving Daniels on $ 300,000 from his book advance. Daniels and Avenatti split after he represented her in a federal inquiry into the role of former Trump attorney Michael Cohen in paying the secret money to silence his affair allegations with Trump before he was president. Trump has denied having an affair with Daniels.
Earlier this month, Avenatti appeared in New York City court, where a judge in his first criminal case sentenced him to 30 months in prison for trying to extort millions of dollars from Nike.
Amidst tears, Avenatti told the judge he deeply regretted his conduct, saying he had “betrayed my own values, my friends, my family and myself”.
“Me, and I alone, have destroyed my career, my relationships, my life,” he said.