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Lawyer Michael Avenatti sentenced to 14 years in prison

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Michael Avenatti, the lawyer who represented adult film star Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against former President Donald Trump, was sentenced for 14 years in prison Monday. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Michael Avenatti, the lawyer who represented adult film star Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against former President Donald Trump, was sentenced for 14 years in prison Monday. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 5 (UPI) -- Michael Avenatti, the lawyer who represented adult film star Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against former President Donald Trump, was sentenced for 14 years in prison Monday.

The former celebrity attorney pleaded guilty to federal fraud and tax charges in California in June. Along with his prison sentence, he was ordered to pay $10.8 million in restitution to the IRS and four clients he defrauded and from whom he embezzled money.

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"Michael Avenatti was a corrupt lawyer who claimed he was fighting for the little guy. In fact, he only cared about his own selfish interests," Martin Estrada, U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California, said in a statement.

"He stole millions of dollars from his clients -- all to finance his extravagant lifestyle that included a private jet and race cars. As a result of his illegal acts, he has lost his right to practice law in California, and now he will serve a richly deserved prison sentence."

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Avenatti pleaded guilty to four counts of wire fraud and one count of obstructing the IRS from collecting an estimated $3 million in taxes from his coffee business, Tully's Coffee.

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The Justice Department dropped 31 fraud counts against Avenatti. He originally faced 19 tax-related offenses, six wire fraud charges and two counts of bank fraud.

The maximum sentence Avenatti had faced was 83 years in prison.

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Avenatti, 51, has been in federal prison since February, serving a separate, five-year sentence levied upon him from two federal cases in New York.

U.S. District Judge James V. Selna, of the Central District of California, ordered Avenatti to serve his 14-year sentence consecutively with his present sentence.

One of the clients Avenatti pleaded to embezzling from is a "paraplegic with mental health issues," a news release from the Justice Department said.

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The scheme Avenatti executed against his clients involved deceiving them about the terms of settlement agreements, misappropriating funds from those agreements and telling clients their money already had been sent or received.

When the clients sought the money they were owed by Avenatti, they found themselves "begging for needed funds and making them feel beholden to him when he 'advanced' or 'loaned' them funds that were, in fact, the clients' own money," according to the Justice Department.

The four clients lost approximately $7.6 million from Avenatti's scheme.

"While today's sentencing concludes the government's case against Mr. Avenatti, the enormous damage left behind will be felt by his former clients for quite some time," said Tyler Hatcher, the special agent in charge of IRS Criminal Investigation field office in Los Angeles.

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"It is our sincere hope that his victims will take some solace in the fact that he has been held accountable for his criminal actions."

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