Michael Avenatti followed through on his threat to expose Nike on Tuesday, just hours after being released on bond for allegedly trying to extort $25million from the company.
In a series of tweets on Tuesday morning, the lawyer named both DeAndre Ayton – and Bol Bol as examples of players who recieved impromoper fuinds from Nike.
Ayton played a single season at the University of Arizona before becoming the first pick in the 2018 draft while Bol Bol is the son of 7ft 7in NBA great Manute Bol, who passed away back in 2010.
Avenatti claimed Bol Bol ‘and his handlers’ took ‘large sums’ to play for The University of Oregon, a Nike sponsored school. He also implicated Ayton, writing: ‘Ask DeAndre Ayton and Nike about the cash payments to his mother and others.’
Avenatti claims he has proof that Nike was paying players illegally to sign with certain schools when they were in high school. He was arrested on Monday after threatening to expose the ‘scheme’ in a press conference.
Prosecutors say that rather than try to expose the scheme, he has been threatening Nike and demanding up to $25million to stay quiet about what he claims he knows.
He was charged with extortion and making threats in New York and was released on a $300,000 personal recognizance bond late on Monday night.
In a separate case, the lawyer has also been charged with stealing from a client in California by allegedly pillaging a settlement he won for him to fund his own coffee business.
Avenatti denies all the allegations. In his tweets on Tuesday, he said Nike was guilty of a ‘cover up’ and a ‘crime’ and that he was ‘anxious for people to see what really happened.’
Avenatti then appeared to implicated Phoenix Suns player DeAndre Ayton, who attended the University of Arizona, a school which is sponsored by Nike
Michael Avenatti tweeted in the early hours of Tuesday morning that he was innocent and was i’anxious for people to see what really happened’
Avenatti suggested on Tuesday that DeAndre Ayton’s family had taken payment from Nike, a claim the NBA star has not yet responded to. Ayton has not been charged
In his tweets, Avenatti named Oregon Ducks player Bol Bol (left) and Phoenix Suns star DeAndre Ayton (right)
Ayton’s representatives did not immediately respond to DailyMail.com on Tuesday.
The 20-year-old Bahamian signed with the Phoenix Suns in a two year, $17.7million contract last year.
He attended The University of Arizona, a Nike-sponsored school, for a year before signing with the Suns because he was too young to play professionally.
In February last year, ESPN reported that a University of Arizona coach was heard on a wire-tapped call discussing paying Ayton $100,000 to sign with the school. The coach denied it at the time.
The Sports Secretary for The University of Oregon, where Bol Bol plays, did not immediately respond to inquiries.
Avenatti is accused of approaching Nike a week ago claiming to have proof that it had been paying players illegally and threatening to expose the company for it if it did not pay him up to $25million.
After the charges were revealed, Nike said it had been cooperating with the NCAA investigation into the issue for more than a year.
‘Nike firmly believes in ethical and fair play, both on business and sports, and will continue to assist prosecutors,’ it said.
A source told DailyMail.com on Monday that the co-conspirator in the case is Mark Geragos, the celebrity lawyer currently representing Jussie Smolett and Nike campaign star Colin Kaepernick.
Avenatti is accused of extorting Nike by threatening to ‘expose’ an alleged illegal college basketball scam it was involved in.
Minutes before his arrest on Monday, he tweeted that he would be holding a press conference to discuss it.
‘This criminal conduct reaches the highest levels of Nike and involves some of the biggest names in college basketball,’ he said.
He claimed to have proof that Nike was illegally paying college athletes and their families and, according to prosecutors, threatened to share the allegations, whether proven or not, the night before its quarterly earnings call to drive its stock price down.
According to his indictment, Avenatti’s interest in the case began with the coach of an amateur youth travel basketball team who he represents.
A second defendant is listed as a cooperating witness and not identified in the filings. A source who spoke with DailyMail.com said that the lawyer is Mark Geragos (pictured)
The team had recently lost its $72,000 sponsorship deal from Nike.
Last week, Avenatti contacted Nike claiming to not only know about the ‘scam’ but insisting the company should pay his client $1.5million to stay quiet and give him an additional $15million to $25million to ‘investigate’ it.
He said the fee would be used as a retainer to conduct an ‘internal investigation’ into it, according to the complaint.
Not only has he been charged in New York with extortion and making threats, but he is also facing bank and wire fraud charges in California.
He faces almost 100 years in prison if convicted in both cases as well as possible disbarment as a lawyer.
Geragos has not been charged. He is the second defendant described as a ‘cooperating witness’ in the charging document, according to people briefed on the matter.
The 61-year-old was dropped by CNN on Monday within hours of being linked to the case. He is yet to comment.
Geragos has made a name for himself taking on high profile, controversial cases.
In the past, he has represented Winona Ryder, Michael Jackson and Chris Brown. He is currently representing Empire actor Jussie Smollett in Chicago.
Smollett is accused of staging a hoax attack on himself to get a raise then lying about it for weeks, including in an appearance on Good Morning America.
Avenatti, who previously represented Trump accuser Stormy Daniels, told Fox News on Monday that he believed the duel cases against him are politically motivated.
In California, he is accused of stealing from former client Gregory Barela, who he claims is a close friend of President Trump.
‘We did nothing wrong and were entitled to every dollar received. And of course, [Barela] is represented by a person close to Trump,’ he said in a statement.
Shortly after his release Monday night, Avenatti told reporters that he’s ‘highly confident’ that he will be fully exonerated for allegedly trying to extort $25million from Nike.
‘As all of you know for the entirety of my career I have fought against the powerful. Powerful people and powerful corporations. I will never stop fighting that good fight,’ Avenatti said.
‘I am highly confident that when all of the evidence is laid bare in connection with these cases, when it is all known, when due process occurs that I will be fully exonerated and justice will be done,’ Avenatti added.
DELIGHTED DON JR
The bi-coastal complaints come in the wake of the Mueller probe concluding that neither President Donald Trump or his son Donald Trump Jr had colluded with Russia during the election.
Avenatti, who represented President Trump’s former alleged paramour Daniels in her lawsuit against the real estate scion, had previously tweeted that he knew Don Jr would be indicted as a result of a federal investigation.
‘Donald Trump Jr. will be indicted before his birthday on 12-31-18. If you doubt my prediction, please check my record over the last 7 months. #Winning,’ wrote Avenatti last year.
Don Jr wasted no time in responding to the news of Avenatti’s legal woes on Monday by retweeting the lawyer’s post from last year and stating: ‘How’d that work out for you buddy? #basta.’
He also tossed out a few other tweets, including: ‘#MAGA – Michael Avenatti Getting Arrested!!!’; ‘Good news for my friend @MichaelAvenatti, if you plead fast enough, you might just get to share a cell with Michael Cohen!’; ‘Karmas a b***h huh. #basta.’
Karma: Avenatti, who represented President Trump’s former paramour Daniels in her lawsuit against the real estate scion, had previously tweeted that he knew Don Jr would be indicted as a result of a federal investigation
His former client also showed little love for the lawyer on Monday.
‘I made the decision more than a month ago to terminate Michael’s services after discovering that he had dealt with me extremely dishonestly and there will be more announcements to come,’ said Daniels.
‘I ask that the media respect my decision to withhold further public comment regarding Mr. Avenatti at this time.
LAWYER FOR JUSSIE SMOLLETT AND COLIN KAEPERNICK’S INVOLVEMENT
The events that led to Avenatti’s arrest all played out over the past week.
Avenatti allegedly told the attorneys for Nike that he would release damaging information about the company unless they agreed to make multimillion-dollar payments to himself and a second defendant.
A source claims his co-conspirator is Geragos. Last year, Geragos helped negotiate a multiyear, multimillion-dollar deal between Nike and Kaepernick, the former NFL player known for inspiring other players to protest police brutality, racial inequality and other social issues.
Geragos is currently representing Jussie Smollett, the Empire actor accused of staging a hoax attack to get a raise
In announcing the agreement on Twitter, Geragos called Kaepernick an ‘All American Icon’.
Geragos’ website bio describes him as ‘the only lawyer besides Johnnie Cochran ever named “Lawyer of the Year” in both Criminal and Civil arenas’.
He was admitted to the bar in 1983 and made his name in the 1990s when he got an acquittal in an embezzlement case against Susan McDougal, who was previously convicted in the Whitewater scandal involving President Bill Clinton.
A few years later he represented Clinton’s brother, Roger Clinton, in a drunken-driving case.
He got probation for Winona Ryder after the actress was convicted by a jury in a felony grand theft case, and for Chris Brown, the singer who pleaded guilty to assaulting his then-girlfriend Rihanna.
Perhaps most prominently, Geragos represented Michael Jackson after the pop superstar was accused of child molestation.
Jackson ultimately replaced Geragos, saying he wanted a lawyer who would devote his full time to the case.
Geragos was simultaneously representing Scott Peterson, a California fertilizer salesman who was eventually found guilty of murdering his pregnant wife.
He later represented Jackson in a separate case and settled a lawsuit for $2.5million against the owner of a charter jet company that secretly recorded the singer while he flew on a private plane.
A Los Angeles native with Armenian roots, he’s been a champion of efforts to have the 1915 Armenian Genocide recognized at the national level.
It’s unclear what his connection is with Avenatti, the bellicose attorney best known for representing porn actress Stormy Daniels in lawsuits against President Donald Trump.
But it was Geragos who first reached out to Nike and the company’s lawyers back on March 13.
Ghosted: Stormy Daniels revealed that she had quietly dropped Avenatti as her lawyer (pair above in January). She said she was ‘saddened’ but not shocked by his arrest
Two days later he spoke with an attorney for the company and stated that he and Avenatti had information they wished to share with Nike’s legal team in person.
The two men then approached Nike on behalf of their client, who is identified as an AAU basketball coach at a California college that previously had a $72,000 deal with Nike.
During that March 19 meeting, court papers claim that Avenatti said that he had proof Nike had made illegal payments to at least three high school basketball player’s families.
Those allegations are similar to the ones that have been made against Nike’s rival Adidas.
STORMY: I’M NOT SURPRISED
Stormy Daniels’ reaction to Michael Avenatti’s arrest was one of disappointment but not surprise.
In a Twitter statement, the former porn star said: ‘Knowing what I know now about Michael Avenatti, I am saddened but not shocked by news reports that he has been criminally charged today.
‘I made the decision more than a month ago to terminate Michael’s services after discovering that he had dealt with me extremely dishonestly and there will be more announcements to come,’ she said.
Daniels boosted Avenatti’s profile exponentially with her case against President Trump/
LET’S MAKE A F***ING DEAL
In exchange for his silence, Avenatti allegedly demanded that his client get a $1.5million payment and that he and the other lawyer be brought on to investigate these claims – and be paid between $15 to $25million.
There would also be a provision in that contract stating Avenatti would be paid double the price of any other law firm brought on to work at the company.
Nike’s lawyers were not given much time to think this over either, with Avenatti demanding an answer later that day, it is claimed.
He allegedly informed lawyers at the end of the meeting that if his demands were not met, he would go public with his allegations the next day.
That was March 20, which marked the first day of the NCAA Tournament, as well as the day prior to Nike’s release of their quarterly report.
In a call to Avenatti on March 19, Nike’s lawyer managed to buy two more days to mull over the offer, at which point the US Attorney’s Office was contacted by members of the company.
That was how agents were able to hear the March 20 call between Avenatti and Nike’s lawyers.
In that recorded call, Avenatti stated he wanted ‘a million five for our guy’ and to be ‘hired to handle the internal investigation’.
He then informed the lawyers for Nike that if they were not willing to do these things ‘we’re done here’.
Avenatti later launched into an expletive-filled rant, according to the complaint.
‘I’m not f***ing around with this, and I’m not continuing to play games,’ declared Avenatti, according to court documents.
‘[Y]ou guys know enough to know you’ve got a serious problem, and it’s worth more in exposure to me to just blow the lid on this thing. I’m just being really frank with you.’
He later continued: ‘I’m not f***ing around with this thing anymore. So if you guys think that you know, we’re gonna negotiate a million five, and you’re gonna hire us to do an internal investigation, but it’s going to be capped at 3 or 5 or 7 million dollars, like let’s just be done… and I’ll go and I’ll go take 10 billion dollars off your client’s market cap.’
Avenatti also informed the lawyers that an internal investigation for a company like Nike could cost upwards of $100million, presenting himself as a relative bargain by requesting a tenth of that and saying he would agree to any deal that paid more than $9million.
The following day, when Avenatti met with the lawyers, that amount had gone up a considerable amount.
In that meeting, Avenatti allegedly said that he and his co-counsel would need to receive a $12million retainer and ultimately be paid between $15 and $25million for the investigation.
The attorney for Nike informed Avenatti that Nike had never conducted an investigation that cost more than $10million, and had never once paid out a $12million retainer.
The documents claim Avenatti then asked the lawyer if he had ever ‘held the balls of your client in your hand where you could take five to six billion dollars market cap off them?’
When asked if Nike could perhaps just pay Avenatti’s client and not have to hand over millions to him and his co-counsel, the idea was quickly dismissed.
Avenatti allegedly said that it did not make sense to pay his client an ‘exorbitant sum of money’ in the case, ‘in light of his role in this’.
He then conferred with co-counsel, and upon returning stated: ‘If [Nike] wants to have one confidential settlement and we’re done, they can but us for twenty-two-and-a-half-million dollars and we’re done.’
That was followed by another threat according to the complaint, this time detailing how things would play out after he went public with the allegations against Nike.
R KELLY AND TRUMP ACCUSERS ARE LIARS
‘I just wanna share with you what’s gonna happen, if we don’t reach a resolution. As soon as this becomes public, I am going to receive calls from all over the country from parents and coaches and friends and all kinds of people – this is always what happens and they are all going to say I’ve got an email or a text message or – now, 90% of that is going to be bulls*** because it’s always bulls*** 90% of the time, always, whether it’s R. Kelly or Trump, the list goes on and on – but 10% of it is actually going to be true, and then what’s going to happen is that this is going to snowball,’ said Avenatti, who spoke of the scandal being covered in the Washington Post, the New York Times and on ESPN.
He allegedly said that the company would ‘die,’ but then modified that a bit and stated: ‘not die but they are going to incur cut after cut after cut after cut, and that’s what’s going to happen as soon as this thing becomes public.’
Avenatti asked that the deal be on appear by Monday, and was set to go to Nike’s office where he would sign the deal.
Instead, he was arrested and taken into custody after a warrant for his arrest was signed on Sunday.
FEDERAL AUTHORITIES WEIGH IN
‘As alleged, Avenatti used illegal and extortionate threats for the purpose of obtaining millions of dollars in payments from a public company. Calling this anticipated payout a retainer or a settlement doesn’t change what it was – a shakedown,’ said Manhattan US Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman.
‘When lawyers use their law licenses as weapons, as a guise to extort payments for themselves, they are no longer acting as attorneys. They are acting as criminals, and they will held responsible for their conduct.’
The federal agent who oversaw the investigation also commented on Monday.
‘As alleged, Michael Avenatti approached Nike last week with a list of financial demands in exchange for covering up allegations of misconduct on behalf of the company. The lofty price tag included a $1.5million payoff for Avenatti’s client and upwards of tens of millions of dollars for the legal services of his firm – services Nike never requested,’ said FBI Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney Jr.
‘This is nothing more than a straightforward case of extortion. In the event anyone needs to be reminded, this type of behavior is illegal and it will not be tolerated – especially when committed by a lawyer who is supposed to use his license to practice law, not to willfully violate it.’
Nike said in a statement that the company ‘firmly believes in ethical and fair play, both in business and sports, and will continue to assist the prosecutors’.
SKIMMING FROM THE TOP
In the complaint filed in Central California, Avenatti is accused of lying to a client about the amount the man received in a settlement.
It is a story that was first reported earlier this year by The Daily Beast.
Avenatti allegedly embezzled a sizable portion of a client’s settlement to help fund his struggling coffee business, telling the man he was set to receive an initial payment of $1.6million when it was in fact $1.9million per court documents.
At the same time, he also lied about his assets and holdings to secure a $4.1million loan for a Mississippi bank.
He did this by submitting false tax forms according to prosecutors.
‘In these purported tax returns, Avenatti claimed that he earned $4,562,881 in adjusted gross income in 2011, $5,423,099 in adjusted gross income in 2012, and $4,082,803 in adjusted gross income in 2013,’ states the 196-page complaint, which is signed by IRS Agent Remoun Karlous.
‘He also claimed that he had paid to the IRS $1,600,000 in estimated tax payments in 2012, and $1,250,000 in estimated tax payments in 2013. However, Avenatti never filed personal income tax returns for the 2011, 2012, and 2013 tax years, and did not make any.’
This could land Avenatti in jail for 50 years, and will certainly derail his plans to run for president.
‘A lawyer has a basic duty not to steal from his client,’ said United States Attorney Nick Hanna.
‘Mr. Avenatti is facing serious criminal charges alleging he misappropriated client trust funds for his personal use and he defrauded a bank by submitting phony tax returns in order to obtain millions of dollars in loans.’
It has been determined that Avenatti will face the charges in New York first, followed by California.
‘Professionals, including attorneys, who create elaborate schemes that have no purpose other than to mislead others and defraud both their clients and federally insured financial institutions, run the very high risk of prosecution,’ said Special Agent in Charge Ryan Korner of IRS-Criminal Investigation.
‘The criminal complaint unsealed today shows a pattern of selfish behavior that paints Mr. Avenatti as a lawyer who only represents his own self interests.’