The federal indictment against Michael Avenatti that accused the lawyer of stealing millions of dollars from his clients referred to the victims of his alleged financial crimes with numerical monikers (Client 1, 2, etc.). But thanks to a report from the Los Angeles Times, the identity of Client 2—whose money Avenatti allegedly took to pay for a share of a private jet—has been revealed to be Alexis Gardner, an ex-girlfriend of Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside.
On Jan. 7, 2017, Gardner and Whiteside agreed to a settlement of $3 million after they broke up to reflect, in their words, “[Gardner’s] investment of time and support over a number of years as Hassan pursued a career in the NBA.” The plan was for Whiteside to pay $2.75 million later that month, and for the final $250,000 to come in 2020. Avenatti was supposed to only take a little over $1 million of the first payment with fees and costs factored in. In reality, he ended up taking all of Whiteside’s payment and sending $2.5 million of it to an associate to transfer it to Honda Aircraft Company, LLC for a private jet, according to the indictment.
Avenatti was able to hide this scheme from Gardner because he never gave her a copy of the settlement. He was able to lie to her about the specifics of the payment schedule, saying that the first payment was for legal fees and that the rest would come in 96 monthly payments over eight years, per the indictment. Avenatti’s monthly installments to Gardner totaled $194,000 over 11 months. When the payments stopped coming in, Avenatti told Gardner that Whiteside was just not holding up his end of the agreement—a lie that persisted over nine months.
The lawyer last met with Gardner on March 24, 2019 to tell her that Whiteside was planning to pay the entirety of his missed monthly payments in full. Avenatti aficionados will know that the meeting took place one day before federal agents arrested him in New York.
The Los Angeles Times also reported that the FBI seized the jet Avenatti used Whiteside’s money to help purchase. If convicted of all 36 counts of his indictment—which includes only scamming a paraplegic client with mental health issues out of $4 million—he could serve up to 382 years in prison.