Avenatti accused of embezzling $1.5M from NBA player Hassan Whiteside: report

Attorney Michael Avenatti in 2017 embezzled $1.5 million from NBA player Hassan Whiteside, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday. 

The Times, citing bank records and an indictment brought against Avenatti, reported that in 2017 Whiteside — who plays for the Miami Heat — wired Avenatti $2.75 million and intended for his former girlfriend, Alexis Gardner, to get most of the money.

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Avenatti was entitled to slightly more than $1 million in fees as part of the deal, according to the Times. But prosecutors say he instead hid the money from Gardner, took $2.5 million and put it toward a private jet, the Times reported.

"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 Times in a statement.

"It is unfortunate that something that was meant to be kept private between us is now being publicly reported," they continued. "We have both moved on amicably and wish nothing but the best for each other."

Avenatti told The Hill in an email that "there was never any embezzlement of any monies."

"I look forward to ALL of the details coming out regarding Hassan Whiteside’s settlement, the money received by the client, the money deducted for fees and costs, etc. and the reason why he paid the money. I especially look forward to the inquiry by the @NBA and its commissioner," he said on Twitter. 

After he allegedly embezzled the money from Whiteside, Avenatti told Gardner he would pay out the money she was owed in monthly installments over eight years, the Times reported. 

Avenatti ultimately made 11 payments to Gardner that totaled about $194,000 before the payments stopped in June 2018, prosecutors allege, according to the Times. Avenatti then began deceiving Gardner, claiming that Whiteside was skipping payments, prosecutors say.

Avenatti told the Times that Gardner received "far more than $194,000" and said he would prove it at trial.

"We paid living expenses and other expenses for a long period of time as well," he added.

Earlier this month, prosecutors in California announced a 36-count indictment against Avenatti on charges that included perjury, fraud, failure to pay taxes and other financial crimes.

That indictment alleged that Avenatti stole millions of dollars from clients.

 Updated at 5:02 p.m.