Michael Avenatti, celebrity lawyer and notably outspoken President Trump critic, is once again in the spot light. On April 21, 2019, the Los Angeles Timesreported that, in 2017, Avenatti embezzled $2 million from NBA player Hassan Whiteside.
Back in 2017, Avenatti was representing Alexis Gardner, Whiteside’s ex-girlfriend, in order to negotiate a settlement of a potential lawsuit against Whiteside. The public does not know the contents of an alleged potential lawsuit; however, Avenatti was able to negotiate a $3 million settlement.
Both Gardner and Whiteside confirmed the settlement, saying it “reflected [Gardner’s] investment of time and support over a number of years as Hassan pursued a career in the NBA.” Gardner moved to Miami a few months after Whiteside joined the Miami Heat in late 2014. “It is unfortunate that something that was meant to be kept private between us is now being publicly reported,” continued the joint public statement.
According to prosecutors, Avenatti was entitled to $1 million in legal fees, but instead, prosecutors allege, Avenatti immediately took $2.5 million of the $2.75 initially paid to Whiteside in order to buy a share of a private jet. Later, Avenatti told Gardner that Whiteside’s payment only covered his share of the legal fees and that her settlement would come in 96 smaller monthly installments. Allegedly, Avenatti made several transfers to Gardner, totaling $194,000, but stopped payments in June 2018. When asked why the payments stopped, Avenatti told Gardner that Whiteside had skipped installments.
In defense, Avenatti told the LA times, “[n]o monies were ever embezzled from anyone. I look forward to all of the relevant documents and facts being presented at trial.”