The similarities between Michael Aveantti and Donald Trump have never been hard to miss. As soon as Avenatti became a public figure it was clear that, like Trump, he’s an attention-loving cable news obsessive, who’s quick with an insult and eager to pick fights. Over time, as Avenatti and Trump began their own public feud, the guy who represented Stormy Daniels revealed himself to be just like the guy who paid her $130,000 to stay quiet about their affair.
Those similarities were the basis for Avenatti’s brief flirtation with a run for president. “You’re not going to beat Donald Trump through a message of universal love,” he said. But as Avenatti’s profile rose and reporters began probing his past, another similarity to Trump came into focus — he also has a soft spot for financially irresponsible behavior.
Now that Avenatti has been charged with bank fraud in California and an alleged attempt to extort Nike in New York, it’s clear that he has a much more extensive history of alleged financial crimes than previously thought. Indeed, federal charging documents submitted this week show that investigators “started pursuing Avenatti for alleged tax violations a decade ago,” according to the L.A. Times.
The first sign of trouble came in 2009 when, the IRS said, he reported $1.9 million in personal income but failed to pay $570,000 in taxes. The next year, the IRS said, Avenatti reported $1.2 million in income but skipped out on a $282,000 tax bill.
Since then, according to federal prosecutors, Avenatti has filed no personal income tax returns, even as he deposited $18 million into his bank accounts.
He’s also failed to file tax returns for Avenatti & Associates, which he owns, despite recording $38 million in deposits.
Meanwhile, he was spending money like his name was Manafort, the Times reports:
Among other big-ticket items: $217,000 at Neiman Marcus; $117,000 at Jewelers on Time, a luxury watch store; $277,236 to Porsche dealers; $100,000-a-month rent for a waterfront house on Lido Isle in Newport Beach; $39,762 in Ferrari lease payments, $123,825 in rent on his apartment in a luxury high-rise in Century City.
Avenatti dug his hole deeper after paying $9 million for the coffee chain Tully’s. Though his company was withholding taxes from employee paychecks, it wasn’t sending the money to the IRS. And when the government began garnishing company bank accounts, Avenatti is said to have opened new ones. These are the kind of moves that Trump, with his long history of stiffing contractors and shady tax dealings, would be proud of.