Embattled attorney Michael Avenatti is now accused of embezzling nearly $2 million intended for the former girlfriend of the Miami Heat’s Hassan Whiteside, according to a federal indictment.
According to reports, When Hassan Whiteside of the Miami Heat wired $2.75 million to Michael Avenatti in January 2017, the pro basketball player intended most of the money to go to his former girlfriend, Alexis Gardner.
Avenatti was Gardner’s attorney. An actress and barista, she’d hired him just a few weeks before to negotiate a settlement of a potential lawsuit against Whiteside. It’s unclear what she would have alleged. Avenatti quickly struck a $3-million deal, and the $2.75 million was Whiteside’s first payment.
Avenatti, prosecutors say, was entitled to take just over $1 million in legal fees, leaving the rest for Gardner.
Instead, they allege, Avenatti hid Whiteside’s payment from her and immediately took $2.5 million to buy a share of a private jet.
The full story of Avenatti’s alleged embezzlement from Gardner came to light in bank records and in the April 10 indictment of the Los Angeles lawyer by a federal grand jury in Santa Ana.
The 36-count indictment, which spans an array of alleged financial crimes, identifies Whiteside as “Individual 1” and Gardner as “Client 2.”
“We entered into a mutually agreed upon settlement more than two years ago following the end of our relationship; a settlement that reflected Alexis’ investment of time and support over a number of years as Hassan pursued a career in the NBA,” Whiteside and Gardner told the Los Angeles Times in a statement released by his agent.