Attorney Michael Avenatti is accused of embezzling $1.5 million from NBA player Hassan Whiteside in 2017, the Los Angeles Times reported on Sunday.
Whiteside, who plays for the Miami Heat, had wired Avenatti $2.75 million in January 2017 to cover the majority of a $3 million settlement with his ex-girlfriend, Alexis Gardner, who Avenatti was repping at the time, court documents seen by the LA Times said.
Avenatti was entitled to $1 million in legal fees, but instead took $2.5 million and put it toward a private jet, prosecutors alleged in an April 10 indictment by a California-based grand jury. The LA Times report does not make it clear where the remaining $250,000 went.
Prosecutors alleged that 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.
Avenatti made several transfers to Gardner, totaling $194,000, but ceased payments in June 2018, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors alleged that Avenatti stopped the payments after claiming Whiteside had skipped installments.
Avenatti said in a statement to the LA Times that “No monies were ever embezzled from anyone.”
“I look forward to all of the relevant documents and facts being presented at trial,” he told the LA Times.
Gardner and Whiteside confirmed the settlement to the LA Times, saying it “reflected Alexis’ investment of time and support over a number of years as Hassan pursued a career in the NBA.”
It is unfortunate that something that was meant to be kept private between us is now being publicly reported,” they said in a joint statement. “We have both moved on amicably and wish nothing but the best for each other.”
The Avenatti’s alleged mishandling of the case is part of a 36-count federal indictment, in which the high-profile lawyer is accused from stealing from four other clients, including a mentally ill paraplegic man and makeup artist Michelle Phan.
Avenatti is separately facing charges over accusations that he tried to extort $20 million from Nike.