Michael Avenatti, the celebrity lawyer who warred with the White House and flirted with a presidential bid, was charged Monday morning by federal prosecutors with attempting to extort more than $20 million from Oregon sportswear giant Nike.
Federal prosecutors accused Avenatti and an unnamed client, who previously worked as an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball coach, of threatening to release damaging evidence that proved Nike employees had improperly channeled money to basketball recruits if Nike did not pay at least $22.5 million to Avenatti and his client.
In a statement, prosecutors said that Avenatti attempted to extort Nike "by threatening to use his ability to garner publicity to inflict substantial financial and reputational harm on the company if his demands were not met."
Avenatti posted on his Twitter account this morning that he would be holding a press conference on Tuesday "to disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by @Nike."
Prosecutors released a timeline that included transcripts of conversations—all of them from the past week—where Avenatti allegedly threatened Nike representatives.
"I'll go and I'll take $10 billion off your client's market cap," Avenatti allegedly said on March 20. "But I'm not fucking around."
Nike released a statement to USA Today.
"Nike will not be extorted or hide information that is relevant to a government investigation," the statement says. "Nike has been cooperating with the government's investigation into NCAA basketball for over a year. When Nike became aware of this matter, Nike immediately reported it to federal prosecutors. When Mr. Avenatti attempted to extort Nike over this matter, Nike with the assistance of outside counsel at Boies Schiller Flexner, aided the investigation. Nike firmly believes in ethical and fair play, both in business and sports, and will continue to assist the prosecutors."
The announcement came around the same time that federal prosecutors were filing court documents accusing Avenatti of extortion.
Avenatti was also arrested in federal court in Los Angeles for a different case on Monday morning. The United States Attorney's office said Avenatti was arrested for bank fraud and wire fraud charges. Avenatti is accused of embezzling money to pay personal debts after negotiating a $1.6 million settlement for a client. He is also accused of submitting fake tax returns to a bank in Mississippi to get a $4.1 million loan to support his coffee business, Global Baristas.
Since 2013, Global Baristas has been involved in more than 50 state and federal lawsuits, ranging from breach of lease actions, unpaid taxed, and commercial lawsuits.
Meanwhile, Avenatti became internationally famous for representing adult film star Stormy Daniels in her allegations against President Donald Trump. He has explored a Democratic Party presidential bid.