Celebrity Attorney Michael Aventti has been charged with allegedly hiding a $4 million settlement payment from a mentally ill, paraplegic client.
According to the The Los Angeles Times, Avenatti’s alleged scam caused his client, Geoffrey Ernest Johnson, to miss two months worth of Social Security Administration disability payments earlier in 2019.
The indictment, handed down by a federal grand jury in California, adds to Avenatti’s mounting legal problems. He was indicted in California and New York on March 25 on extortion and embezzlement charges. He is accused of attempting to shake down Nike, the sports apparel company, to the tune of $20 million, as noted by The Daily Caller.
In the latest indictment, Avenatti is accused of scamming five separate clients, including Johnson. He also allegedly withheld a $2.75 million settlement payout from another client in 2017. Avenatti allegedly spent $2.5 million of those funds to purchase a private jet.
In a case against Los Angeles County, Avenatti represented Johnson when Johnson injured himself jumping from an upper floor of the Twin Towers Correction Facility. He claimed the county, who administers the jail, was negligent because he was suicidal.
The Times also noted that Johnson’s settlement payout was wired to Avenatti in January 2015. Avenatti did not inform Johnson of the settlement. Instead, he deposited the money in several bank accounts, including one for his race-car team, GB Autosport, LLC, and Global Baristas US, a coffee company that Avenatti owned.
The indictment alleges Avenatti had spent most of the money within five months of receiving it. He doled out only $124,000 to Johnson over the next several years. Avenatti paid Johnson in installments between $1,000 and $1,900, and covered some rent payments for the assisted living facility where Johnson lives.
Johnson was told by Avenatti that the payments were advances on a settlement that had yet to be paid out, the indictment claims.
Johnson also allegedly lost disability benefits ignored Johnson’s request in November 2018 to provide the government agency with information from the settlement.