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Celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti, who is already accused of federal financial crimes, has been indicted on 36 counts of embezzlement and fraud by a California federal grand jury, USA prosecutors announced Thursday.

The attorney is accused of stealing "millions of dollars from five clients and used a tangled web of shell companies and bank accounts to cover up the theft".

The announcement comes after Avenatti appeared in a Santa Ana courtroom April 1 after being charged with filing false tax returns to secure $4 million in bank loans and withholding $1.6 million from a client.

The indictment also accuses Avenatti of various tax crimes.

Between September 2015 and January 2018, Global Baristas US, the company that operated Tully's, failed to pay the IRS $3.2 million in payroll taxes, including almost $2.4 million withheld from employees, the indictment said.

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When the IRS put tax levies on coffee company bank accounts to collect more than $5 million, Avenatti had Tully's employees deposit cash receipts in a little-known account, the indictment said.

Avenatti used another $2.5 million in settlement money belonging to another client to help pay for a private jet, the indictment said.

If Avenatti was to be convicted of all charges in the new indictment, he could face up to 335 years in prison, according to the Los Angeles Times. He was ordered released on $300,000 bond later that day.

Federal prosecutors in California plan to level fresh charges against Michael Avenatti on Thursday, marking yet another legal blow for the controversial celebrity attorney known for representing adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

They said Avenatti and a co-conspirator, who they did not name, met with Nike's attorneys on March 19 and told them they represented a former college basketball coach with information about Nike's involvement in a scheme to bribe high school basketball players.

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Daniels, who replaced Avenatti as her lawyer last month, has said she was "saddened but not shocked" by his arrest. The indictment announced Thursday alleges Avenatti stole millions of dollars from clients, didn't pay taxes, committed bank fraud and lied during bankruptcy proceedings.

"Mr. Avenatti received the money on behalf of clients and simply took the money to finance his businesses and personal expenses", Hanna said.

Specifically, it alleges that Avenatti stole from a mentally ill paraplegic client on disability who won a $4 million settlement. An indictment is expected soon in that case.

The lawyer was arrested last month in NY for allegedly attempting to extort millions of dollars from Nike.

Avenatti responded on Twitter this morning, saying that he's made a lot of "powerful" enemies over two decades. Avenatti is accused of having the money wired to him and hiding it from the victim for years.

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On Thursday, asked about Avenatti's claim that the indictment was the result of a conspiracy by prominent figures Avenatti has antagonized, Hanna dismissed that allegation: "Nothing can be farther from the truth".


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