Nick Hanna, the U.S. attorney for the Central District of California, is one of the prosecutors who announced new charges against lawyer Michael Avenatti on March 25, 2019. Avenatti is facing federal charges of wire and bank fraud for allegedly attempting to extort millions of dollars from Nike and embezzling money from a client.
Hanna spent 20 years as a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP before becoming the District Attorney in January of 2018.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Nick Hanna Says Michael Avenatti Allegedly Embezzled Money From a Client in Order to Pay Debts
Nick Hanna, whose full name is Nicola T. Hanna, brought the charges against Michael Avenatti during the morning of March 25, 2019. According to a news release, embedded above, Avenatti is accused of lying to a client about the amount the client was to receive in a settlement. Avenatti allegedly embezzled the funds in order to cover his own expenses and pay debts.
Hanna says that Avenatti is also accused of submitting fake tax returns to a bank in Mississippi in order to obtain three loans to cover expenses for his law firm and coffee business. The loans totaled more than $4 million. Hanna stated in the news release, “A lawyer has a basic duty not to steal from his client. Mr. Avenatti is facing serious criminal charges alleging he misappropriated client trust funds for his personal use and he defrauded a bank by submitting phony tax returns in order to obtain millions of dollars in loans.”
This is the second time that Avenatti has been arrested in the past few months. In November of 2018, he was arrested for alleged domestic violence by former girlfriend Mareli Miniutti. The charges were eventually dropped.
2. Nick Hanna Was Appointed as U.S. District Attorney for the Central District of California by Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions
Nick Hanna spent time in federal law enforcement at the beginning of his career. After two decades with a private firm, he made his return to the public service sector in January of 2018.
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed Hanna as interim United States Attorney for the Central District of California. In a news release at the time, Sessions described Hanna as having earned respect as both a prosecutor and defense attorney during his legal career.
Sessions added, “With his expertise and his outstanding record, the people of California can be confident in his leadership.” President Trump nominated Hanna to be the permanent DA the following month and Hanna was confirmed by the Senate for a four-year term in April of 2018.
3. Hanna’s Experience Included Prosecuting Drug Traffickers as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the 1990s
Nick Hanna worked as a prosecutor throughout the 1990s in California. He was in the Central District of California office from 1990 through 1994. He then worked in San Diego for the Southern District of California until 1998.
Hanna’s time as an Assistant U.S. attorney was mainly focused on targeting drug traffickers. According to his government bio, Hanna’s job in the 1990s included “matters involving major narcotics traffickers, money laundering, and other violent and economic crimes.”
In San Diego, Hanna served as Deputy Chief of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. He continued his work there prosecuting trafficking and money laundering cases.
One of the cases Hanna prosecuted in 1993 involved former Bank of America branch manager Deborah Lynn Mendes. She was found guilty of assisting a drug trafficking ring and sentenced to 24 years in prison, according to the Los Angeles Times.
4. Nick Hanna Was a Partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP in Los Angeles
Nick Hanna spent 20 years at the Los Angeles headquarters of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP.
5. Hanna Graduated From Georgetown University Law Center & Has Been Practicing Law Since 1987
Nicola T. Hanna has been a licensed attorney in the state of California since 1987. According to Avvo, a national online directory of U.S. lawyers, Hanna has never had his license suspended or been accused of misconduct. He was inducted into the American College of Trial Lawyers in 2009.
Hanna earned his law degree from Georgetown University Law Center in 1987. He served as an Associate Editor of the Georgetown Law Journal and graduated magna cum laude.
Prior to law school, Hanna graduated from the University of California in San Diego in 1984.