Michael Avenatti pleads not guilty to embezzlement in latest round of criminal charges

PHOTO: In this April 1, 2019 file photo Attorney Michael Avenatti leaves court after making an initial appearance on charges of bank and wire fraud at federal court in Santa Ana, Calif.PlayMike Blake/Reuters, FILE
WATCH Feds to file new charges against Michael Avenatti

Michael Avenatti on Monday formally pleaded not guilty to charges he stole millions of dollars from clients who had been awarded settlements, the latest set of accusations targeting the celebrity attorney.

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Federal prosecutors in California filed a 36-count indictment against Avenatti earlier this month, accusing him of orchestrating a decade-long scheme to embezzle and hide millions of dollars from clients.

PHOTO: In this April 1, 2019 file photo Attorney Michael Avenatti leaves court after making an initial appearance on charges of bank and wire fraud at federal court in Santa Ana, Calif. Mike Blake/Reuters, FILE
In this April 1, 2019 file photo Attorney Michael Avenatti leaves court after making an initial appearance on charges of bank and wire fraud at federal court in Santa Ana, Calif.

The money, which clients had won in settlements, was supposed to flow through Avenatti back to his clients once paid. But those settlements stayed with Avenatti, according to prosecutors. He then allegedly used those payments to fund a lavish lifestyle.

Avenatti is due back in court on June 17.

Prior to the short arraignment in California on Monday, the former attorney for adult film actress Stormy Daniels reiterated his intention to fight charges on Twitter, invoking his ongoing feud against President Donald Trump.

“We don’t convict someone in America based on a one-sided argument and a press conference,” Avenatti wrote. “Even when he is one of the biggest enemies of the president and his son.”

PHOTO: Adult film actress Stormy Daniels attends an event in Berlin, Oct. 11, 2018. Markus Schreiber/AP, FILE
Adult film actress Stormy Daniels attends an event in Berlin, Oct. 11, 2018.

Avenatti gained national recognition last year as a vocal critic of Trump in his capacity as Daniels’ attorney and briefly as a prospective Democratic candidate for president, though he eventually bowed out of the race before launching an official candidacy.

But in recent months, Avenatti has been the subject of federal investigations on both coasts in a range of alleged crimes.

Prosecutors in California previously targeted Avenatti with wire and bank fraud charges in a scheme that included allegations he stole funds from a client to pay off his own expenses.

In New York, Avenatti is facing two counts of extortion for his alleged role in what prosecutors called “an old-fashioned shakedown” of Nike.