Michael Avenatti, porn star Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, released a seven-page dossier on Tuesday containing a list of payments purportedly made to Michael Cohen, the lawyer for President Donald Trump.
But there is one problem with the document: two of the allegedly “fraudulent” payments were made to men named Michael Cohen who have no affiliation with Trump.
Avenatti’s report includes a section listing “possible fraudulent and illegal financial transactions” involving Trump’s lawyer. One of the payments is a $4,250 wire transfer from a Malaysian company, Actuarial Partners, to a bank in Toronto.
The other is a $980 transfer from a Kenyan bank to Bank Hapoalim — the largest bank in Israel.
Zainal Kassim, a representative for Actuarial Partners, stated Avenatti’s report is a case of mistaken identity. He forwarded an email the falsely accused Michael Cohen sent to Avenatti requesting the lawyer “correct this error forthwith and make it known publicly” there is no connection to Trump’s Michael Cohen.
“You are surely aware of the fact that this is an extremely common name and would request that you take care before involving innocent parries in this sordid affair,” wrote Cohen, who told Avenatti he is an international consultant who was paid by Actuarial Partners for work on a project in Tanzania.
“Actuarial Partners have already received inquiries from the press in this regard, and we would like to see this scurrilous rumour spiked as soon as possible.”
Haaretz, the Israeli news outlet, found another case of mistaken identity in Avenatti’s report.
“Mr. Cohen received one wire transfer in the amount of $980.00 from a Kenyan bank from account holders Netanel Cohen and Stav Hayun to an account in Israel at Bank Hapoalim,” Avenatti wrote.
Haaretz caught up with Netanel Cohen, who acknowledged having a bank account in Kenya and transferring money to a Michael Cohen. But the Michael Cohen in questions is his brother, Netanel told the news outlet. And his brother is not Trump’s lawyer.
“I’ve never heard of Michael Cohen, and I have no connection to this affair,” Netanel told Haaretz.
It is unclear how Avenatti obtained the financial records cited in his report. But various news outlets, including The New York Times, also appear to have viewed the documents. The Treasury Department’s office of the inspector general opened an investigation into whether someone leaked Cohen’s financial documents to Avenatti and the press, it was reported on Wednesday.
It remains a mystery how the financial records of a completely separate Michael Cohen would have ended up in the tranche of documents provided to Avenatti.
Other transfers tied to Michael Cohen, the Trump lawyer, actually did occur. Several companies, including AT&T, Novartis and Columbus Nova, a firm linked to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, acknowledged paying Cohen’s company, Essential Consultants.
Cohen used that firm to route a $130,000 payment to Daniels in October 2016. Daniels, who claims she had an affair with Trump in 2006, is suing Cohen and the president to get out of a non-disclosure agreement she signed in exchange for the money.