In a Vanity Fair interview published on the eve of his federal grand jury indictment in Manhattan, Michael Avenatti said that he “flew too close to the sun.” “I know I did,” the lawyer added. “No question. Icarus.”
But the comparison to the tragic Greek character fails when subjected to a slight bit of scrutiny. Icarus attempted to escape the island he and his father were imprisoned on; Michael Avenatti, as already known from his 36-count indictment in California and criminal complaint in New York, had attempted to extort another mythology-adjacent entity, Nike, and allegedly shorted a paraplegic client of $4 million in settlement money. Nowhere in the original Greek myth does Icarus allegedly embezzle millions from the disabled or threaten a sneaker company.
On Wednesday, the list of charges against the embattled celebrity attorney grew when a grand jury in Manhattan indicted Avenatti in two additional scams, charging him with fraud and aggravated identity theft for his treatment of ex-client Stormy Daniels. Avenatti — who represented Daniels in her legal disputes with the president involving a $130,000 hush payment — was charged with misappropriating “a significant portion” of the adult-film actress’s book advance, and spent that money on his law-firm payroll and his coffee business.
Prosecutors allege that in total Avenatti took over $295,000 from Daniels. After securing a book deal for his client, the indictment states that he sent “a fraudulent and unauthorized letter” with Daniels’s signature on it to her literary agent, complete with instructions that the agent wire a chunk of the advance to an account controlled by Avenatti. According to the indictment, Daniels “had not signed or authorized the letter, and did not even know of its existence.”
Avenatti, not known to stay quiet in times of his legal duress, tweeted shortly before the indictment was made public: “No monies relating to Ms. Daniels were ever misappropriated or mishandled. She received millions of dollars’ worth of legal services and we spent huge sums in expenses. She directly paid only $100.00 for all that she received. I look forward to a jury hearing the evidence.” The lawyer better be confident in his grasp of the indictments: If he is convicted on all charges, he could face over 300 years in prison.