Lawyer Avenatti accused of embezzling from client Stormy Daniels

Lawyer Michael Avenatti faces up to 22 years in prison for allegedly embezzling money from his celebrity client Stormy Daniels (AFP Photo/Frederic J. BROWN)

New York (AFP) - Things are looking stormier for Michael Avenatti, who was charged Wednesday with embezzling funds from porn star Stormy Daniels, the very client who made him famous when he represented her in her legal battle with US President Donald Trump.

In a 16-page indictment Manhattan federal prosecutors accused infamous lawyer Avenatti of falsifying documents in order to directly pay himself about $300,000, originally intended for Daniels as part of an advance payment from her editor for her memoir.

Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, was not explicitly named in the indictment, which only refers to "Victim No. 1," but multiple media outlets confirmed she was the client in question.

Avenatti denied the accusation on Twitter, writing that "no monies relating to Ms. Daniels were ever misappropriated or mishandled."

He added he is confident he will be "fully exonerated."

California-based Avenatti gained notoriety when he represented Daniels from February 2018 to February 2019 in her legal battles with Trump over hush money she received for an alleged affair with the president in 2006.

Known for his lavish lifestyle, Avenatti allegedly used the money he stole from Daniels to pay for various professional and personal expenses, including leasing a Ferrari.

If convicted, Avenatti faces up to 22 years in prison.

The accusation is the latest in a string of legal troubles for Avenatti.

A vocal Trump critic, Avenatti was arrested in November in Los Angeles for domestic violence, though he did not face felony charges.

He was then arrested in New York in March for allegedly attempting to extort millions of dollars from the sports apparel giant Nike.

And in April he was accused of 36 counts of embezzlement, financial and bank fraud and bankruptcy fraud in Los Angeles.

Avenatti faces 355 years in prison if convicted, though he has continued to maintain his innocence.