December 26, 2019 / 4:37 AM / 25 days ago

Prosecutors claim Avenatti was over $15 million in debt during alleged Nike extortion

(Reuters) - California attorney Michael Avenatti, known for representing porn actress Stormy Daniels in a lawsuit against U.S. President Donald Trump, was more than $15 million in debt when he allegedly tried to extort as much as $25 million from Nike Inc (NKE.N), U.S. prosecutors claimed.

FILE PHOTO: Attorney Michael Avenatti arrives at the United States Courthouse in the Manhattan borough of New York City, U.S., October 8, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

“Specifically, the Government presently estimates that the defendant’s debts at that time were, conservatively, in excess of $15 million,” prosecutors said in a filing late on Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

In a statement to Reuters late on Wednesday, Avenatti denied those claims and dismissed them as “bogus”.

“Any claim that I was $15 million in debt is completely bogus, ludicrous and absurd. I can’t wait for the trial in this case, at which point the TRUTH and FACTS will come out and I will be fully exonerated,” Avenatti said in an emailed statement.

Last week, Avenatti, 48, pleaded not guilty to an indictment accusing him of trying to extort up to $25 million from Nike by threatening to go public with claims the company made improper payments to athletes.

The celebrity lawyer is accused by prosecutors of demanding money from the athletic wear company in exchange for agreeing to scrap a threatened news conference to discuss Nike’s alleged improper payments to elite college basketball recruits.

A trial is scheduled for late in January. Nike, which has denied wrongdoing, did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on Wednesday.

Since his March 25 arrest in the Nike case, Avenatti has defended himself against a variety of criminal charges.

He has pleaded not guilty in Manhattan to stealing about $300,000 from Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, after helping her secure a book contract.

He has also pleaded not guilty in California to wire fraud, bank fraud and other crimes, including stealing from clients.

Reporting by Kanishka Singh and Rama Venkat in Bengaluru; editing by Richard Pullin

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