We know more about the mounting legal problems facing attorney Michael Avenatti. He allegedly stole from a $3 million settlement meant for client Alexis Gardner, an ex-girlfriend of Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside, according to The Los Angeles Times. The lawyer was supposed to only get over $1 million for his work fees, but took more and applied it toward his share of a private jet, prosecutors said.
The settlement stemmed over a potential lawsuit Gardner was possibly going to bring against Whiteside. They were already known in a 36-count indictment as Client 2, and Individual 1, respectively.
“We entered into a mutually agreed upon settlement more than two years ago following the end of our relationship; a settlement that reflected Alexis’ investment of time and support over a number of years as Hassan pursued a career in the NBA,” Whiteside and Gardner told the LA Times in a joint statement provided by his agent. “It is unfortunate that something that was meant to be kept private between us is now being publicly reported. We have both moved on amicably and wish nothing but the best for each other.”
According to prosecutors, Whiteside wired an initial $2.75 million payment on January 25, 2017. The remainder was scheduled for Nov. 1, 2020. Avenatti allegedly never gave Gardner a copy of the settlement, however. He told her that the money would be split in 96 monthly payments over eight years, authorities said. Aveantti allegedly made Gardner some payments totaling about $194,000, but this stopped in June 2018, and he spent the following nine months telling her that Whiteside was skipping payments.
The lawyer allegedly stole money from four other clients. This includes Geoffrey Ernest Johnson, a man dealing with mental illness and paraplegia; and makeup artist and YouTuber Michelle Phan.
Avenatti told the outlet that looked forward to trial, insisted that he gave Gardner “far more than $194,000,” and he never embezzled from anyone. He also took to Twitter, and singled out her allegation:
I look forward to ALL of the details coming out regarding Hassan Whiteside’s settlement, the money received by the client, the money deducted for fees and costs, etc. and the reason why he paid the money. I especially look forward to the inquiry by the @NBA and its commissioner.
[Image via Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for Politicon]