Michael Avenatti Sentenced to 4 Years in Prison for Identity Theft, Defrauding Stormy Daniels

In February, a Manhattan jury found Avenatti guilty of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft after he stole around $300,000 of the $800,000 advance paid to Daniels for her October 2018 book, Full Disclosure, about her alleged affair with Donald Trump

Attorney Michael Avenatti
Attorney Michael Avenatti. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty

Stormy Daniels' former lawyer Michael Avenatti has been sentenced to 48 months in prison after being found guilty of identity theft and stealing from the 43-year-old adult film star.

In February, a Manhattan jury found Avenatti, 51, guilty of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Avenatti stole around $300,000 of the $800,000 advance paid to Daniels for her October 2018 book, Full Disclosure, about her alleged affair with Donald Trump prior to his presidency.

On Thursday, Avenatti was sentenced in Manhattan federal court by United States District Judge Jesse M. Furman.

Daniels had previously hired Avenatti after accepting a $130,000 hush payment deal from Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen that had prohibited her from speaking about the alleged sexual encounter in public. (Trump, for his part, has denied the affair with Daniels, despite acknowledging their non-disclosure agreement.)

The lawyer-client relationship fell apart after Daniels discovered Avenatti had kept some of the money from her book deal for himself.

According to the Department of Justice, Avenatti stole two installments of Daniels' book advance, totaling $297,500, and then sent to her literary agent "a fraudulent and unauthorized letter purporting to be from Daniels and appearing to bear her signature, which directed that future payments be sent to a bank account that he controlled.

In its release, the DOJ said Avenatti "wrote the letter himself, never received authorization from Daniels, and caused Daniels' signature to be copied and pasted from another document onto the letter without her consent."

After transmitting the letter to Daniels' agent, the DOJ says Avenatti received received $148,750 worth of the advance and "promptly spent the money to satisfy his own personal and business expenses." When Daniels began asking about the payment, Avenatti "lied to Daniels, telling her that her publisher had not made the payment," the department said.

After Daniels said she would ask her publisher about the payment, Avenatti then obtained a personal loan to pay her $148,750, the DOJ says.

Later, Avenatti "pressured the publisher to make the next installment payment early, purportedly at Daniels' request though in truth without her awareness," the DOJ says. He then received a second installment worth $148,750, which he again spent "for his own purposes." All the while, the department says, he "continued to lie and claim that he was fighting with the publisher on her behalf when, as he knew, the publisher had made the payment early, but that he had stolen it."

"At the same time, further to avoid discovery of his scheme, Avenatti, purporting to act as Daniels' attorney, told her publisher and literary agent not to respond to direct requests for information from Daniels," the department says.

"Lawyers have a duty to be loyal and advocates for their clients," said U.S. Attorney Damian Williams in a press release Thursday. "Far from being a loyal advocate for his client, Michael Avenatti stole his client's identity and her money in order to line his own pockets. Now, Avenatti will serve a substantial prison sentence for his brazen crimes and betrayal of his client."

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In addition to the four-year prison sentence, Avenatti was also sentenced to three years of supervised release, as well as restitution and forfeiture.

He is currently serving a 2 1/2-year sentence for attempting to extort Nike in a $25 million scheme.

A portion of his sentence in the Daniels case will run concurrently with his sentence in the Nike case.

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