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Prominent New York Attorney, Husband Charged with Wire Fraud
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Ravelo with the First Lady.

Summary: Keila Ravelo and her husband, Melvin Feliz, have been charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud after creating two phony legal consulting companies that accumulated over $5 million.

It won’t be a joyous holiday season for a renowned antitrust attorney and her husband. According to NorthJersey.com, Keila D. Ravelo, an attorney in New York City, and her husband, Melvin Feliz, had a hearing in federal court in Newark on Monday after their arrests that morning. The couple is accused of stealing millions of dollars from two New York City law offices and have been charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Ravelo had worked as a partner at the firms, and allegedly used her position at those firms to commit fraudulent transactions. In addition, Feliz is suspected to be the head of a drug trafficking ring in New Jersey, and faces separate federal charges for those activities.

  
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A Florida judge was recently convicted for reckless driving and DUI.

The couple is accused of creating two “dummy” companies and having Ravelo’s former law offices pay those companies over $5.75 million in legal consulting fees. The pair controlled those dummy companies from 2008 until this past summer.

U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said that no legal consulting work was ever performed, and that the couple used the money generated to finance their personal investments and purchase items for themselves. For example, around $250,000 was paid to a jewelry store.

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Until November, Ravelo was a partner with Willkie Farr & Gallagher. From 2008 to 2010, she was a partner with Hunton & Williams. Both firms have issued statements indicating that they are cooperating with the police investigations.

In March, Feliz was charged with conspiring to distribute cocaine. Authorities state that Feliz paid $550,000 to purchase 20 kilograms of cocaine in California, and transported it to Bergen County. Law enforcement has called Feliz the “leader” of a drug trafficking group in court papers, and added that he and two other individuals were charged after an investigation was conducted. A confidential informant assisted law enforcement with the investigation.



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Wire fraud carries up to 20 years in prison, and the couple could have to pay back double what they reaped from the scheme. On Monday, the couple was arrested at 6:00 a.m. However,their attorneys consider the criminal complaint lacking in merit.

Aidan O’Connor, Ravelo’s lawyer, said the timing of the arrest was both “weak” and “suspicious” considering Feliz’s trial on the drug charges will go forward in a couple of weeks. Patrick Joyce, Feliz’s attorney, said that it was “vague what Mr. Feliz did was illegal” in the most recent criminal complaint, noting that he had not heard whether the two law firms had complained about a loss of funds.

A lawyer was arrested for videotaping the events surrounding Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri.

Daniel Garrido was the special agent from the Internal Revenue Service who signed the complaint. He said that he did “not set forth each and every fact that [he knew] concerning this investigation” since the complaint is “being submitted for a limited purpose.” According to the complaint, the pair “conspired with each other and others” to defraud both law firms, as well as a client.

According to Fishman, the Drug Enforcement Administration was also investigating the couple with the IRS, but Fishman did not detail how the DEA was involved. He explained that Ravelo was authorized to approve payments to the couple’s dummy companies because she was a partner. Garrido said that attorneys working with Ravelo admitted to the police that they never reviewed the legal consulting work that supposedly was being performed by the dummy companies.

Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Hammer told prosecutors to present more evidence when a bail hearing for Feliz will be continued. Feliz was in custody Monday evening.

An attorney attempted to hire a hitman in exchange for reduced fees.

Ravelo’s bail was set at $500,000. She made bail by posting security in the form of $325,000 of equity in a Miami condominium, a $125,000 painting, and a $200,000 retirement account. Tax records show that Ravelo owns two homes in Eaglewood Cliffs. One is supposedly worth $1.4 million, the other is worth $2.4 million.

Just two months ago, Ravelo was featured in the Profiles in Diversity Journal in the “Women Worth Watching” section. Ravelo penned the piece about herself, including a picture with first lady Michelle Obama. Ravelo said that she specializes in antitrust litigation, and that she has worked with the same “core team” of “smart, ambitious lawyers” for a decade.

Two years ago, Ravelo was named to the National Center for Law and Economic Justice’s board of directors. The organization assists impoverished families with receiving help from government agencies. However, she is no longer listed as a board member.

According to federal authorities, one phony company set up by the couple received more than $5 million from the two firms, and another company received $750,000. The bank account for the first company was located in Nevada, and the accounts for the other company were opened in New Jersey.

The complaint states that Hunton & Williams paid $2 million for legal consulting for one case for a two-year period from 2008 to 2010. The client in that case has also been cooperating with the investigation.

Antoinette McGovern, the chief marketing officer for Willkie Farr & Gallagher, said that Ravelo is no longer with the firm in a written statement. “We have been cooperating fully with the authorities and have no further comment to make at this time,” she stated.

Hunton & Williams has also issued a statement, explaining that they are cooperating with law enforcement and is “committed to meeting and exceeding the highest ethical and legal standards, and any behavior to the contrary is not tolerated by the Firm.”

Photo credit: womenworthwatching.com



 

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