SANTA ANA, Calif. (UPI) — California lawyer Michael Avenatti pleaded guilty Thursday to stealing millions of dollars from four clients, according to court records.
Avenatti pleaded guilty to four counts of wire fraud as well as one count of tax fraud for attempting to obstruct the administration of the Internal Revenue Code.
Avenatti embezzled money that should have been paid to clients, according to a statement by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.
District Court Judge James V. Selna is scheduled to sentence Avenatti on Sept. 19. He has already been disbarred by the State Bar of California and faces a statutory maximum sentence of 83 years in federal prison.
Avenatti faces a further 31 counts, including six wire fraud charges, 18 tax-related charges, two counts of bank fraud, and one count of aggravated identity theft among others.
“The government is reviewing the case to determine how it will move forward after today’s guilty pleas. In the event that the government elects to proceed on the remaining counts,” the Justice Department said in a statement.
Four of the charges he still faces are related to bankruptcy fraud from alleged false statements he made after his law firm was forced into bankruptcy. If the government does decide to move forward with the remaining charges, Avenatti’s September sentencing date would be moved.
Avenatti current in custody over theft from former client
Avenatti is currently in custody. Earlier in June, he was given a four-year prison sentence for stealing nearly $300,000 from former client Stormy Daniels. He was convicted in a New York court of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.
At the time, he was already serving a 2 1/2-year sentence in an attempt to extort more than $20 million from Nike.
Reporting by Simon Druker
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