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New York prosecutor Michael Avenatti, who has recently come out representing a few of the new R. Kelly victims, has been charged with attempted to extort Nike for up to $25 million by threatening to release damaging information about the company. The report says Avenatti threatened to hold a press conference at the start of March Madness to announce allegations of misconduct by employees at the company.
Avenatti was reportedly representing the coach of an AAU Youth Club basketball team and after a complaint was made, the attorney demanded Nike hire him for the exorbitant sum of money to conduct an internal investigation. Avenatti allegedly had information from the AAU coach that one or more Nike employees were funding payments to top high school basketball players, attempting to hide the evidence. Avenatti told Nike they could pay him $22.5 million to buy his silence or they could hire him to conduct the investigation.
Avenatti has additionally been arrested for bank and wire fraud after embezzling money from clients to cover expenses for his coffee corporation.
Nike released a statement saying they “will not be extorted or hide information that is relevant to a government investigation. Nike has been cooperating with the government’s investigation into NCAA basketball for over a year. When Nike became aware of this matter, Nike immediately reported it to federal prosecutors. When Mr. Avenatti attempted to extort Nike over this matter, Nike with the assistance of outside counsel at Boies Schiller Flexner, aided the investigation. Nike firmly believes in ethical and fair play, both in business and sports, and will continue to assist the prosecutors.”
Another allegation against Avenatti, he allegedly siphoned off a $1.6 million settlement he scored for a client in 2017 and hid it in a personal bank account that he controlled … but never told his client a thing about it. The U.S. Attorney alleges Avenatti used that money to fund his lavish lifestyle and to help pay for his coffee business in California and Washington State. All the while, the client never received a penny.
The U.S. Attorney and the IRS also claim Avenatti defrauded a bank for millions of dollars worth of loans by submitting fake tax returns between 2011 and 2013, in which he claimed to have earned around $4-$5 million a year each year and supposedly paid $2.8 million in taxes. The government says all of that was a lie, the didn’t file taxes those years at all.
Written by Clarke Jones