- by theguardian
- 06 Feb 2023
The incarcerated lawyer Michael Avenatti was sentenced in southern California on Monday to 14 years in prison and ordered to pay $7m in restitution after admitting he cheated four of his clients out of millions of dollars.
The sentence should run consecutively to the five-year prison term he is currently serving for separate convictions in New York, the US district judge James V Selna said during a hearing in Santa Ana, California.
Avenatti pleaded guilty this year to four counts of wire fraud and a tax-related charge without reaching a plea deal with federal prosecutors, saying he wanted to be accountable and spare his family further embarrassment. He was accused of negotiating and collecting settlement payments on behalf of his clients and funneling the money to accounts he controlled.
Before sentencing, Avenatti apologized to the four victims in the case, three of whom were in the courtroom.
The government dropped all other remaining charges against Avenatti stemming from a 36-count indictment.
In California, prosecutors said Avenatti had collected $4m from Los Angeles county for a man who suffered in-custody injuries and was left paraplegic after a suicide attempt, but he had denied the settlement was received and had paid the man smaller amounts ranging from $1,000 to $1,900 that he called advances on the broader settlement. In another instance, prosecutors said, Avenatti collected a $2.75m settlement payment for a client and used much of the money to buy a private airplane.
Prosecutors had asked for Avenatti to be sentenced to an additional 17.5 years in prison on top of the five he is already serving.
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