(AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

Michael Avenatti accused of trying to extort Nike for over $20 million

March 25, 2019 - 1:12 pm

NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- Michael Avenatti was arrested on Monday in New York. He is accused of trying to extort a publicly traded company. 

The Southern District of New York is accusing the celebrity lawyer of trying to extract more than $20 million in payments from Nike by threatening to use his public position to inflict financial and reputational harm on the company.

"Avenatti used legal terms like 'claims' and 'settlements' and 'retainers,' but these were mere devices to provide cover for Avenatti's extortionate demands," said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, adding that the plot amounted to a shakedown.

Authorities say Avenatti threatened to hold a press conference the day before Nike's quarterly earnings call and at the beginning of the NCAA tournament, during which he planned to announce allegations of misconduct by employees. The SDNY says Avenatti told Nike the only way he would refrain from holding the press conference would be if Nike paid a client $1.5 million and retained Avenatti to conduct an internal investigation for a payment of between $15 and $25 million.

"I'll go take $10 billion dollars off your client's market cap...I'm not f***ing around," Avenatti allegedly said.

The FBI arrested him at the Manhattan law office that represents Nike shortly after he tweeted about his planned press conference.

Sources tell the Wall Street Journal that attorney Mark Geragos is an alleged co-conspirator in the case.

Geragos and Avenatti allegedly made the threats during a March 19 meeting in New York. Geragos is currently representing Empire actor Jussie Smollet over allegations that he lied about a purported hate crime.

Berman says the entire scheme played out in less than a week.

Avenatti appeared in court Monday evening wearing a gray suit and blue tie. A federal judge ordered him released on $300,000 bond. He didn't enter a plea.

He could face up to 50 years in prison if convicted on the wire and bank fraud charges, according to U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna.

Speaking in Los Angeles Monday, Hanna said the case paints "an ugly picture of lawless conduct and greed."

Avenatti previously represented adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, who released a statement after his arrest, saying she was "saddened but not shocked" and that "he had dealt with me extremely dishonestly."

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