Michael Avenatti Faces New Criminal Charges in Escalated Federal Case – The New York Times

In a significant escalation of the criminal case against Michael Avenatti, the brash lawyer known for representing Stormy Daniels in lawsuits against President Trump, federal prosecutors in California announced on Thursday that he had been indicted on three dozen counts.

The authorities accused Mr. Avenatti of stealing millions of dollars from five clients and of lying repeatedly about his business and income — not just to clients but also to an I.R.S. collection agent, creditors, a bankruptcy court and a bankruptcy trustee.

Mr. Avenatti was indicted by a federal grand jury in Santa Ana, Calif., on the new charges, which included tax fraud and bankruptcy fraud, adding to charges of wire fraud, bank fraud and extortion that were filed against him last month in California and New York. If convicted of all the crimes of which he has been accused in California alone, prosecutors said, he would face a maximum of 333 years in prison, and an additional two-year mandatory sentence on an identity theft charge.

“It is lawyer 101: You do not steal your client’s money,” Nicola T. Hanna, the United States attorney in Los Angeles, said at a news conference Thursday, describing Mr. Avenatti’s business as a Ponzi scheme of sorts. “Money generated from one set of crimes was used to further other crimes, typically in the form of payments used to string along victims so as to prevent Mr. Avenatti’s financial house of cards from collapsing.”

Mr. Avenatti denied all of the allegations on Thursday. He has suggested that the case against him is politically motivated, following his aggressive representation of Ms. Daniels, the pornographic film actress who said she had a sexual relationship with President Trump and received a hush-money payment in October 2016. (Two suits that Mr. Avenatti brought on behalf of Ms. Daniels against Mr. Trump have been dismissed.)

“This case is based on the facts and the documents,” Mr. Hanna said Thursday, noting that the charges stemmed from an inquiry by the I.R.S.’s criminal investigation division that dated to September 2016, before Mr. Trump was elected and well before Mr. Avenatti began representing Ms. Daniels.

Among the five clients Mr. Avenatti is accused of defrauding across four matters, prosecutors said, one was a paraplegic man, Geoffrey Ernest Johnson, who won a $4 million settlement from Los Angeles County four years ago but had received only “a fraction of the money” through periodic payments that never exceeded $1,900.

“Mr. Avenatti stole millions of dollars that were meant to compensate Mr. Johnson for a devastating injury, spent it on his own lavish lifestyle, then lied about it to Mr. Johnson for years to cover his tracks,” Josh Robbins, a lawyer for Mr. Johnson, said Thursday. “His actions have left Mr. Johnson destitute.”

Mr. Avenatti lied to clients about having received a total of more than $12 million in settlement payments, a share of which he would have been entitled to keep for his work, prosecutors said. He told clients the money had not yet arrived or, in one case, that he had already forwarded the funds to the client. He paid out small portions of what was owed to the clients, calling those payments “advances on the settlement,” prosecutors said.

Mr. Avenatti put most of the client money toward his own expenses, the authorities said, including a $5 million private jet that he co-owned, which prosecutors said they had seized on Wednesday. In the purchase of that aircraft, according to the charging documents unsealed Thursday, Mr. Avenatti used $2.5 million of a client’s $3 million settlement, paid in 2017, while he told the client that the settlement would be paid in installments over eight years.

In other instances, the indictment said, he put client money toward paying personal legal expenses, paying creditors after his firm had filed for bankruptcy, and paying costs associated with a coffee company he owned.

He also dodged taxes, some that he owed himself and others that were owed by his firm, prosecutors said. They alleged that Mr. Avenatti had lied to an I.R.S. revenue officer and had taken steps to prevent the government from collecting on tax liens and levies since 2013.

Though from 2015 to 2017 he withheld taxes from the paychecks of employees at the coffee company he owned — Global Baristas, which ran Tully’s coffee stores — Mr. Avenatti failed to pay more than $3 million in payroll taxes to the government, prosecutors said. They accused him of trying to obstruct the government’s efforts to collect nearly $5 million in unpaid payroll taxes and penalties by routing coffee-company money to different bank accounts, including one associated with a car-racing company he owned.

“As the tax filing season comes to an end, the indictment filed today sends a clear message,” Ryan Korner, the acting special agent in charge of the I.R.S.’s Criminal Investigation division in Los Angeles, said Thursday. “We will investigate all individuals, including high-profile attorneys who violate the tax laws.”

At the time of Thursday’s announcement, Mr. Avenatti was out on $300,000 bail after having been arrested late last month in New York, where he was accused of demanding millions from Nike’s lawyers while threatening to reveal what he has described as improper payments to college basketball recruits by the sportswear giant. He is due to answer to the new charges against him on April 29 in federal court in Santa Ana.

“I intend to fully fight all charges and plead not guilty,” Mr. Avenatti said on Twitter after the new charges in California were announced. “I look forward to the entire truth being known as opposed to a one-sided version meant to sideline me.”

“For 20 years, I have represented Davids vs. Goliaths and relied on due process and our system of justice,” he said. “Along the way, I have made many powerful enemies. I am entitled to a full presumption of innocence and am confident that justice will be done once all of the facts are known.”

Mr. Avenatti, 48, was a fixture on cable news as an antagonist to Mr. Trump as Ms. Daniels’s case played out. He and Ms. Daniels parted ways this year, and his firm again filed for bankruptcy last month. Even since he was first charged last month, he has turned to the news media to mount his defense.

“I can take a tremendous amount of punishment and keep going,” he told The New York Times days after he was arrested. “Anytime you’re charged with any felony you have to take it seriously, and I’m concerned about it,” he said, quickly adding: “The government has me in their cross-hairs, and there are reasons for that.”

He declined to explain what exactly he meant by that.

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House Democrats set April 23 deadline for IRS to turn over Trump's tax returns

U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he departs for travel to Texas from the White House in Washington, U.S., April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

  • Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Richard Neal has set an April 23 deadline for the IRS to release six years of President Donald Trump’s tax returns.
  • The previous deadline was set for April 10.
  • Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Trump’s personal attorney have pushed back on the request, saying that it may go past Congressional authority. 
  • Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.

The Democratic chairman of the US House Ways and Means Committee on Saturday set a new April 23 deadline for the Internal Revenue Service to comply with his request for six years of President Donald Trump’s personal and business tax returns.

In a letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal said the tax agency’s failure to comply with the new deadline would be interpreted as a denial of his request. The Trump administration has already failed to comply with an earlier April 10 deadline set by Neal.

Neal has argued that the committee is entitled to Trump’s returns as part of its duty to oversee taxes, and says that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is obligated to fulfill the request.

Read more: A fiery congressional meeting over obtaining Trump’s tax returns turned into a verbal melee between Democrats and Republicans

Trump’s personal attorney William S. Consovoy has pushed back against Congressional efforts to secure the president’s tax returns, saying that requests raise “serious issues concerning the constitutional scope of congressional investigative authority.” Mnuchin raised the same point on Wednesday.

In his two-page letter, Neal dismissed those concerns, saying they “lack merit.”

Trump’s tax returns have been a point of contention since his 2016 campaign. Trump is one of the only elected presidents in recent memory who has not released his tax returns. Trump has refused to release the returns, claiming he is under audit. 

Limited information from Trump’s taxes suggest that he used tax loopholes to save or recover millions of dollars.

SEE ALSO: Steven Mnuchin unable to meet deadline for Trump’s tax return demand, says Treasury Department needs more time to ‘carefully’ review request

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Criminal Minds Season 15 release date brings bittersweet news for fans – Hiptoro

This is a bittersweet moment for fans of the CBS drama Criminal Minds as the production has revealed that Criminal Minds Season 15 is confirmed, but it will be the last instalment of the show.

CBS announced in January this year that Criminal Minds Season 15 will be its farewell season. With over a decade and a half’s worth of runtime, the long-running show will surely be missed by fans. The show aired its pilot on September 22, 2005, and ran for 14 seasons before being axed.

Showrunners reveal fears

criminal minds cancelled

criminal minds cancelledFor the showrunners, it was a moment full of mixed emotions. Eric Messer said,

“It’s really bittersweet, but I’m so, so grateful to CBS for giving us this heads-up.”

She also added that being shut down without any information was her biggest fear, and thanked CBS for giving them prior notice.

She said,

“I think one of my biggest fears was always, ‘Oh man, what if we don’t know’ and then they just don’t bring back the show? But they respect this series and the cast and the crew and the fans enough to end this properly.”

Speculations suggest that the channel may have dropped Criminal Minds over falling audience numbers. Over the last 14 seasons, the writers have come up with new storylines but everything has become too predictable now, and there is no “wow” moment.

Criminal Minds Season 15: What’s on the horizon

criminal minds ending

criminal minds endingThe last season is expected to be released in fall this year. It will have a total of 10 episodes. A time skip is expected this season. Showrunners said that the new season will pick up 6 months after the events of the last season.

The characters are expected to focus inwards in this instalment, on their “emotional journey” – as Messer called it.

Criminal Minds Season 15 is now in production.

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Kim Kardashian West’s unlikely path to becoming lawyer tied to Van Jones’ Oakland law group – San Francisco Chronicle

A person famous for being famous says she has figured out a way to become a lawyer without attending law school.

Kim Kardashian West, the TV personality best known for publicizing herself, announced in a recent interview with Vogue that she will become a legal apprentice with #cut50, an Oakland-based organization working for prison reform. The TV figure said she already can do criminal law “in my sleep” and plans to study at home and take the bar exam in three years.

“The reading is what really gets me. It’s so time-consuming. The concepts I grasp in two seconds,” West told the magazine.

Alex Gudich, a spokesman for #cut50, said the apprenticeship will be in conjunction with “some of the real work we do.”

“We are excited to work with (West) as she she pursues her apprenticeship,” #cut50 said in a statement. “Like everyone on our team, (West) cares deeply about people negatively impacted by the criminal justice system.”

California is one of four states that allow legal apprentices to become lawyers without attending law school, if they are able to pass the bar exam. In California, legal apprentices must work 18 hours a week at a law office, study at home and take the notoriously difficult “baby bar exam” after the first year of apprenticeship to be allowed to continue. That exam requires applicants to craft complex legal analyses of four cases, typically running dozens of pages.

West’s last classroom experience was a brief period at a community college in Los Angeles before she dropped out.

Gudich said West would be following the “standard bar protocol and processes for the apprenticeship program.” It was not immediately clear how West’s current career would affect her ability to spend the required time in the Oakland office as well as hitting the books.

At #cut50, whose name refers to a goal of cutting prison sentences in 50 states, West will be working alongside and under the tutelage of Van Jones, a CNN pundit and former adviser to President Barack Obama, and #cut50’s Jessica Jackson, a former Mill Valley mayor. West will be their first formal apprentice.

As an advocate for reform, West is best known for meeting last spring with President Trump to request clemency for Alice Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old grandmother serving a life sentence for nonviolent drug offenses. The case was championed by #cut50. A week later, Trump granted the request.

Jones called West’s intervention in Johnson’s case “the most effective, emotionally intelligent intervention that I’ve ever seen in American politics.” Not every political expert agreed.

In addition to conferring with fellow reality show veteran Trump, West is known for modeling, for selling cosmetics, for making a sex tape, for being married to musician Kanye West and for being robbed at gunpoint in Paris.

The apprenticeship route to a legal career is usually chosen by those seeking to save on the average $150,000 tuition for three years of law school. West, said to be worth $350 million, would presumably not be in that category.

In California, 3 out of every 5 people who attended law school before taking the bar exam flunk the test. The success rate for the few legal apprentices who take the exam is believed to be even lower. A spokesman for the State Bar of California did not have statistics for that.

If West passes the bar exam, she would join Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson among apprentices who became lawyers without going to law school. If she flunks, she would not.

Steve Rubenstein is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: srubenstein@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @SteveRubeSF

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Uber may owe another $128 million to Google for awards related to Uber vs. Waymo (GOOGL)

Travis Kalanick and Anthony Levandowski

  • Uber may owe Google $128 million related to arbitration demands against Uber’s former VP of Engineering Anthony Levandowski.
  • The awards stem from Google v. Levandowski & Ron, and Google v. Levandowski. These two cases are separate from, but related to, the Uber vs. Waymo case that kept both companies in the spotlight last spring.
  • The $128 million awards, issued on March 26, were disclosed Thursday in Uber’s S-1 filing to go public. 
  • Uber could be held liable for the awards granted against Levandowski and his co-defendant Lior Ron because the company previously agreed to cover the pair’s legal fees.
  • Visit Businessinsider.com for more stories.

An earlier version of this story had an incorrect number, $227 million, in the headline. It has since been updated.

One year after settling the blockbuster Uber vs. Waymo lawsuit, Uber may be on the hook for another $128 million to Google stemming from two separate but related legal issues, according to a disclosure in Uber’s S-1 filing to go public.

On March 26, Uber’s VP of Engineering Anthony Levandowski was found liable for $127 million, according to the Uber S-1. Levandowksi and Lior Ron, his cofounder at trucking startup Otto, are also jointly liable for a second $1 million award to Google, according the filing. Otto was purchased by Uber in 2016. 

The awards stem from two separate arbitration demands: Google v. Levandowski & Ron, and Google v. Levandowski. Uber may be liable to pay out the awards because the company previously agreed to cover the pair’s legal fees. 

The $128 million in awards follow allegations made by Google in October 2016 that Levandowski and Ron broke their employment agreements with Google, and committed fraud related to proprietary self-driving car LIDAR technologies.

Read more: Uber spent $3.3 billion on acquisitions in 2018 and 2019 — 10-times more than Lyft

The total cost of those awards could go up significantly if the panel decides to award Google more money to compensate for the costs associated with its lawsuits, including attorney’s fees, according to the S-1.

Uber already settled with Waymo

Uber already paid Google’s self-driving car unit an award in a separate but related lawsuit, Uber vs. Waymo. The companies settled after Uber agreed to pay Waymo $245 million in equity. 

That settlement saw Waymo awarded 0.34% of Uber equity pegged to a $72 billion valuation for the ride-hailing company, a person familiar with the settlement told Business Insider at the time. Uber is reportedly expected to IPO with a valuation close to $100 million, which means that today that equity is worth even more.

Because Uber had previously agreed to cover Levandowski and Ron’s legal fees, the company said in its filing that it may be obligated to cover their awards owed to Google as well.

However, the company also said it may contest its obligations here.

Uber declined to comment. Google was not immediately available for comment. 

More from Uber’s IPO filing:

Uber has filed to go public in what could be the biggest IPO in years

‘I won’t be perfect, but I will listen to you.’ Uber CEO outlines the company’s ‘enormous’ opportunity while acknowledging its turbulent past in letter to investors

SEE ALSO: ‘I won’t be perfect, but I will listen to you.’ Uber CEO outlines the company’s ‘enormous’ opportunity while acknowledging its turbulent past in letter to investors

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