Michael Avenatti was $15 million in debt when he tried to extort Nike in March, prosecutors allege in a late Tuesday court filing. Prosecutors say the lawyer tried to shake down the sneaker giant for more than $20 million and threatened to release damaging information if the company didn’t pay him and another individual off.
“The Government does not intend to argue that the defendant was wealthy (and the evidence shows that he was not),” Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Podolsky wrote.“The Government expects that the evidence at trial will show that, at the time of his charged conduct, the defendant was in significant debt. Specifically, the Government presently estimates that the defendant’s debts at that time were, conservatively, in excess of $15 million.”
According to prosecutors, Avenatti owed money to celebrity attorney Mark Geragos, former clients, a former law partner, and two ex-wives. The new filing comes after Avenatti’s lawyers argued in an earlier filing that evidence of an alleged debt should not be mentioned during the case—which prosecutors said Tuesday is necessary to “establish his desperation for money at that time and thus motive.” “Any claim that I had $15 million in debt at the time of my arrest is bogus and absurd,” Avenatti told the New York Post. “I look forward to the trial in this case at which time I will be fully exonerated and the truth will finally be known.”