December 19, 2022 By Paul Wallin

The Case of Michael J. Avenatti 

Lawyer Michael J. Avenatti represents a case of serious attorney misconduct. Currently, the Santa Ana lawyer is in the midst of serving five years at Terminal Island Federal Correctional Institution in Los Angeles. He was previously convicted in New York for the attempted extortion of Nike and for swindling former pornographic actress Stormy Daniels of her payment for a book deal. More recently, the attorney has been sentenced to 14 years in prison for stealing money from two of his former clients, which is to be served consecutively on top of his current five-year sentence. Additionally, the federal judge ordered Avenatti to pay over $10 million in restitution. 

One of Avenatti’s former clients and victims, Geoffrey Johnson, was a paraplegic who lost the ability to walk while in the custody of Los Angeles County and was represented by Avenatti in his lawsuit against the county. According to prosecutors, Avenatti had secured a $4 million settlement on behalf of Johnson but kept most of the money to himself, lying to Johnson about what was going on with his case. Once prosecutors began questioning Johnson, Avenatti made him sign a testimonial that stated that Avenatti had handled the litigation ethically. The other victim, Alexis Gardner, was represented by Avenatti in a lawsuit against her ex-boyfriend. Avenatti used Gardner’s settlement money to finance a private jet. After Avenatti was sentenced, he asked to be transferred to the federal correctional facility, to which the judge said he would put in a recommendation.

Grand Theft (PC Section 487) & Embezzlement (PC Section 503) 

Under California Penal Code Section 487, Avenatti is guilty of grand theft. Grand theft is committed when you illegally take: 

  • Money, labor, or property of a value exceeding $950 
  • Property from the person of another 
  • An automobile or a firearm 

In addition, Avenatti could be charged with the crime of embezzlement. Under PC Section 503, in order for a prosecutor to convict you of embezzlement, he must prove the following elements: 

  • You were entrusted with property by the owner. 
  • You were in a position of trust with the owner. 
  • You fraudulently converted or used the property for your own benefit. 
  • You intended to deprive the owner of its use. 

Grand theft and embezzlement are both considered “wobbler” crimes, meaning they could be prosecuted as either misdemeanors or felonies depending on your prior criminal history and the circumstances surrounding your case. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor, you may face up to 1 year in county jail. If you are convicted of a felony, you may face 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in county jail. 

Defense to Grand Theft and Embezzlement | How We Can Help You  

Our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have represented a great number of clients accused of theft crimes. Some of the most common ones include: 

If you have been accused of a theft crime, our attorneys will first look for evidence that you did not intend to steal. As such, we can put forth the defense that you did not have the specific intent required for the crime. This is because if a person takes another person’s money or property but does not intend to steal or keep it at the time of possession, then he should not be found guilty of the crime of theft. However, it is important to note that he could still be found guilty of the crime of embezzlement. 

Contact Wallin & Klarich Today 

Theft is a serious crime in California, and even lawyers can face heavy prison sentences for stealing. To avoid incarceration after a theft accusation, you need an experienced defense team fighting for you. With 40+ years of experience, Wallin & Klarich has helped hundreds of clients clear their names and be acquitted after a theft charge. We understand how difficult these cases can be, but we know the most effective strategies to help you achieve the best possible outcome.  

With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, Torrance, West Covina, Los Angeles, and San Diego, you are sure to find a Wallin & Klarich lawyer available to help you in a convenient location.  Discover how our team can assist you. Contact us today, toll-free at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free consultation with a skilled defense attorney.

AUTHOR: Paul Wallin

Paul Wallin is one of the most highly respected attorneys in Southern California. His vast experience, zealous advocacy for his clients and extensive knowledge of many areas of the law make Mr. Wallin a premiere Southern California attorney. Mr. Wallin founded Wallin & Klarich in 1981. As the senior partner of Wallin & Klarich, Mr. Wallin has been successfully representing clients for more than 30 years. Clients come to him for help in matters involving assault and battery, drug crimes, juvenile crimes, theft, manslaughter, sex offenses, murder, violent crimes, misdemeanors and felonies. Mr. Wallin also helps clients with family law matters such as divorce and child custody.

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