Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside was allegedly embezzled out of $2.75 million by attorney Michael Avenatti 27 months ago, the Los Angeles Times reported.
FILE PHOTO: Apr 7, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside (21) tries to get around Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam (43) at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports/File Photo
Alexis Gardner, a former girlfriend of Whiteside, retained Avenatti to negotiate a potential lawsuit against Whiteside and Avenatti struck a $3 million deal.
Whiteside made an initial $2.75 million payment to Avenatti in January 2017 but none of the money was passed on to Gardner, according to the report.
Avenatti was entitled to just over $1 million in legal fees but hid the payment from Gardner, according to prosecutors, and took $2.5 million to buy a share of a private jet.
Avenatti was indicted on April 10 by a grand jury in Santa Ana, Calif. Gardner is one of five people who had money stolen from them by Avenatti, prosecutors said.
According to prosecutors, Avenatti repeatedly told Gardner that Whiteside wasn’t making his payments. Eventually, Avenatti made 11 payments to Gardner over a 15-month period — always misrepresenting them as a payment from Whiteside — totaling $194,000 before stopping in June 2018.
On Sunday, Avenatti commented on this Twitter account, saying in part:
“I look forward to all 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.”
The reason for a $3 million settlement isn’t publicly known and Whiteside offered no explanation in a joint statement provided to the Los Angeles Times.
“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 said in a statement released by Whiteside’s agent.
“It is unfortunate that something that was meant to be kept private between us is now being publicly reported. We have both moved on amicably and wish nothing but the best for each other.”
Last month, Avenatti was charged with attempting to extort up to $25 million from Nike by threatening to expose misconduct by Nike employees involving payments to college basketball players. He mentioned former Arizona center Deandre Ayton and Oregon big man Bol Bol as players who received money from Nike as recruits.
About 10 days later, Avenatti said the mother of Duke star Zion Williamson was paid by Nike for “bogus consulting services” as part of the deal to get Williamson to choose the Blue Devils.
Avenatti jumped into the public eye when he was the attorney for adult film star Stormy Daniels during her legal battles with President Donald Trump. He and Daniels parted ways earlier this year.
Whiteside, 29, just completed the third season of a four-year, $98 million contract. He averaged 12.3 points and 11.3 rebounds in 72 games (53 starts) this past season.
—Field Level Media