Stormy Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenatti has some explaining to do...
After appearing on CNN 59 times to claim the moral high ground over President Trump's alleged decade-old affair with Daniels, skeletons in Avenatti's closet are now beginning to pour out.
Questions have emerged over who's funding Avenatti, how he was privy to Trump attorney Michael Cohen's bank records - and how exactly did he obtain banking transactions for two men also named Michael Cohen, who he wrongly accused in a seven-page "dossier" released this week.
Other questions have come to light over a bankrupt coffee chain Avenatti left in smoldering ashes with $5 million in unpaid taxes to the IRS, an alleged $160,000 owed for unpaid coffee, and over 45 lawsuits filed in connection with the failed venture.
Bitter coffee deal
As outlined in a legal complaint seeking Avenatti's disbarment, the balding provocateur "bought a company out of bankruptcy and then used it for a "pump and dump" scheme to deprive federal and state taxing authorities of millions of dollars," which left over $5 million in unpaid taxes to the IRS.
Avenatti purchased Tully's out of bankruptcy in 2013, in partnership with actor Patrick Dempsey, who is best known for his role as Derek "McDreamy" Shepherd in the TV show "Grey's Anatomy." Dempsey sued Avenatti in August 2013 to break off the partnership.
Since then, Tully's has significantly struggled. More than 45 lawsuits have been filed against the chain's parent company, which Avenatti says he no longer owns. In 2017, the company owed roughly $5 million in unpaid taxes to the Internal Revenue Service. And, in March, the coffee chain abruptly closed all locations. -Business Insider
Not everybody owes $5M+ in federal taxes...meet Michael Avenatti... pic.twitter.com/6TLLN7oJIC— Robert Barnes (@Barnes_Law) May 9, 2018
According to Dempsey, Avenatti was supposed to bankroll the deal through his company, Global Baristas, but didn't have the funds - instead borrowing $2 million at an "exorbitant" 15% to close on the transaction. The actor sued to get out of the partnership after he claimed "Avenatti concealed the Loan and the Security Agreement from Dempsey."
Since 2013, 46 cases have been filed against Global Baristas US LLC and its parent company, Global Baristas LLC in Washington's King County Superior Court.
One of the companies left in Avenatti's wake is Dillanos Coffee Roasters, which CEO David Morris says is owed over $160,000 for beans.
@seanhannity @FoxNews So @StormyDaniels hot shot lawyer @MichaelAvenatti , owes my small company @Dillanos $160,179 for coffee. He talks a big talk about integrity. We trusted him. Retweet if you think he should pay up! #Tullyscoffee— David J. Morris (@coffeemaverick) May 8, 2018
Pay your coffee bill boy! Geeeesh😂😂😂😂😂😂 pic.twitter.com/UeqCDA5TBX— TrumpGirlFierce🇺🇸 (@j3nnp4c3) May 10, 2018
Speaking of back taxes, Avenatti reportedly paid himself $1.85 million in 2015 and 2016 while his law firm racked up over $1.5 million iun back taxes.
Court documents:— Techno Fog (@Techno_Fog) May 9, 2018
Why was Michael Avenatti paying himself $1.85 million in 2015-2016 while his law firm ran up over $1.5 million in back taxes? pic.twitter.com/2i9FjUQGdx
Read the bar complaint against Avenatti here:
Big trouble over leaks?
Next there's the question of who exactly leaked Trump attorney Michael Cohen's bank records - and the records of two unrelated men named Michael Cohen who Avenatti wrongly accused of. Yesterday we reported that the US Treasury launched a probe into the leak, as Avenatti refuses to disclose his source.
Accordingly, someone may be in deep trouble over the leaks. As The Daily Beast's Kate Briquelet notes, Cohen's attorneys filed court papers questioning the veracity of Avenatti's "dossier," along with how he came to obtain the banking transactions.
A spokesman for the Office of the Inspector General told ABC News that investigators are probing whether Suspicious Activity Report information “has been improperly disseminated.” The IG investigation arose from a New York Times report that apparently included the same information Avenatti released, according to ABC News.
tax lawyers interviewed by The Daily Beast say they’re puzzled that Avenatti would have access to Cohen’s banking info—especially after Daniels’ civil case was put on hold, and because the feds are still investigating Cohen. They said it’s highly unusual for SARs, which are confidential and not to be made public, to be leaked.
Experts told The Daily Beast the level of detail in Avenatti’s report suggests he obtained Treasury documents that only the agency’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) had access to or which were requested by law enforcement—such as the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which has been investigating Cohen for months, reportedly eyeing the Trump stalwart for possible bank fraud, wire fraud, and campaign-finance violations.-The Daily Beast
“I think somebody from the SDNY is leaking,” said Las Vegas-based trial attorney Robert Barnes. “The degree to which Avenatti had details implicates them badly.”
The only people who had BOTH the #Cohen bank information & the FINCEN information is the #Mueller team & #SDNY. Either way, federal law enforcement is illegally leaking private records to embarrass Trump in violation of criminal laws through ethically-suspect lawyer #Avenatti. pic.twitter.com/rhUzSGMRHt— Robert Barnes (@Barnes_Law) May 9, 2018
Mueller raids Michael Cohen's office and suddenly his clients and bank records get leaked to Stormy Daniels lawyer— Jack Posobiec🇺🇸 (@JackPosobiec) May 9, 2018
Gee, I wonder who leaked them
Avenatti published details on the identities of and payments from Cohen’s “business clients” AT&T and Novartis, Ryan stated. The defense attorney denied Columbus Nova, the firm connected to the Russian oligarch, routed funds to Cohen on behalf of Vekselberg and his cousin Andrew Intrater.
Federal investigators have Cohen’s bank records as a result of the April raids, Ryan said, adding, “but we are not aware of any lawful attempts by Mr. Avenatti to obtain these records.” -The Daily Beast
Martin Sheil, a retired IRS branch chief of the Criminal Investigation division, told The Daily Beast that whoever leaked the SARs to Avenatti could face criminal penalties.
“That person has to be either bank connected and therefore knowledgeable as to the confidentiality provisions of the SAR process, or this person could be law-enforcement related,” Sheil said. He added, “Every law-enforcement person who has access to the FinCEN database containing SARs must take an online course that goes over the confidentiality provisions of the Bank Secrecy Act and FinCEN protocols.”
This is fun. Cohen's lawyer asked the Judge that Avenatti be "required to explain to this Court how he came to possess and release" Cohen's bank records.— Techno Fog (@Techno_Fog) May 10, 2018
Might be the only time a lawyer has plead the 5th at a simple pro hac vice hearing. pic.twitter.com/VueNR83gOi
Who's funding Avenatti?
Last but not least are questions swirling over exactly who is funding Michael Avenatti's crusade.
After Stormy Daniels admitted over Twitter that she's not paying for his services, rumors began to swirl that his efforts could be bankrolled by everyone from George Soros to Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal.
But this release of a “report” by Avenatti also raises the question of where and how did he get this detailed financial information because he didn’t find it on Google. This is the kind of information that would have been known only by the Treasury Department, his banks or by prosecutors, raising some serious questions about what kind of operation Avenatti is running. Is there a team of people digging this up? Are they paying off sources? Is Fusion GPS involved? Are there political donors behind it that could make this campaign work? He can’t be both an attorney and then participate as an officer of the court in trafficking illegally obtained information.
Avenatti has been given a free, unfettered media perch on TV to spread his stuff without the networks forcing him to meet any disclosure requirements, saying that he is Daniels’s attorney when someone else entirely is paying for this operation is not true disclosure that allows the viewer to evaluate the source and potential conflicts. He is now being given deference as though he is a journalist interested in protecting unverified sources while he makes the most headline-grabbing statements he can. Lawyers need to disclose the source of their evidence. -The Hill, op-ed
Avenatti, meanwhile, tells the Daily Caller that "any suggestion or claim that somehow this is being funded by the Left or funded by some PAC or funded by left-wing political interests or funded by any other political interests is complete and utter bullshit."
.@MichaelAvenatti tells @DailyCaller: "any suggestion or claim that somehow this is being funded by the Left or funded by some PAC or funded by left-wing political interests or funded by any other political interests is complete and utter bullshit." https://t.co/wxg6JmaOus— Peter J. Hasson (@peterjhasson) May 10, 2018
Avenatti repeatedly pointed to an April 30 tweet in which he said, “The only source of outside funds for the legal fight we are waging is the [CrowdJustice] site and Ms. Daniels’ personal funds. No PACs, no political party, no special interests, no fat cat donors. The haters need to come up with a new conspiracy theory.”
TheDCNF asked Avenatti about his funding source after The Hill ran a Thursday column that claimed “Avenatti needs to come forward with exactly who is financing his operation, who his sources were for detailed banking information, and whether he really is an attorney solely representing Stormy Daniels or just using her as cover to wage a political operation.”
The only sources of funding for his legal battle against Trump are a small payment Daniels gave him up front, plus money raised on a crowdfunding site, CrowdJustice, Avenatti indicated to TheDCNF.
“Ms. Daniels paid a de minimis amount — plus the CrowdJustice, period,” Avenatti said. To date, the crowdfunding effort has raised over $425,000. -Daily Caller
And there we have it - as Michael Avenatti comes under fire for naming the wrong "Michael Cohens" and his access to confidential banking records in his quest to take down Donald Trump and his attorney, his past is catching up with him - and threatens to erase any semblance of credibility he may have once had.
Is there anybody #Avenatti hasn't defrauded? He's already been sued, has warrants, liens or judgments for defrauding employees, customers, vendors, investors, partners, cities, counties, states, the feds, and accused of lying to sheriffs, judges, bankruptcy courts & creditors.— Robert Barnes (@Barnes_Law) May 10, 2018