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Big Law Partner Keila Ravelo Pleads Guilty
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Keila Ravelo

Summary: A former Willkie and Hunton partner pled guilty to two counts involving a scheme to defraud her law firms of millions.

Former Willkie Farr & Gallagher partner Keila Ravelo pled guilty to wire fraud and tax evasion. Ravelo, 51, appeared before a federal court in New Jersey to make her plea and was ordered to pay $7.9 million in restitution. She now faces four to six years behind bars, as reported by Law.com.

  
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Ravelo, a former lawyer for two Big Law firms, was accused of making fraudulent invoices for fake litigation vendors that she then sent to law firms. She used the reimbursed money to pay for personal expenses and other items.

Of the nine-count indictment, Ravelo pleaded guilty to two counts – one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of tax evasion. The remaining seven counts will be dropped, as part of the plea deal. She will sell her real estate and care in order to fulfill the restitution requirement. And she will refile her tax returns for the years between 2008 and 2014 before her sentencing date, which has been set for March 5, 2018. She faces three years of supervised release after her prison sentence.

U.S. District Judge Kevin McNulty of the District of New Jersey questioned Ravelo about the details of her involvement in the scheme in order to determine if her guilty plea was based in fact. Ravelo struggled to answer the questions, consulting in whispers with her lawyers Steve Sadow of Schulten Ward Turner & Weiss in Atlanta and Lawrence Lustberg of Gibbons in Newark. She would eventually answer the questions about if she committed fraud, although she claimed she did not know how much money she had taken.

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McNulty accepted her plea pending a recommendation from the federal probation department. If the recommendation does not give a sentence in the range of 48 to 72 months, then she can withdraw her plea.

Ravelo was arrested with her now-estranged husband Melvin Feliz in December 2014. Prosecutors allege that the couple put most of the money they funneled from Wilkie and Hunton & Williams into a joint bank account to be used for personal expenses and investments. She then failed to report the money on her tax returns.



Feliz admitted last August to his role, pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of tax evasion. He is still waiting for his sentencing for the charges and a separate drug charge.

Ravelo had been working on a case for Mastercard before she was arrested. After her arrest, Willkie conducted an internal review, finding that Ravelo and the plaintiffs’ attorney Gary B. Friedman had been improperly exchanging confidential information.

Sadow said after the hearing, “Ms. Ravelo chose to plead guilty because she felt it was important for her two college-aged sons and family to understand that she was accepted full responsibility for her conduct – the failure to expose her husband’s fraud upon the law firms where she worked and her client Mastercard when she became aware of it in 2012. Instead, and under intense emotional pressure to keep silent, she wrongfully covered up his fraud, and by doing so, allowed it to continue. It has taken her time to come to grips with the reality of her conduct, and after three long years of living with this nightmare and having lost everything, looks forward to putting this behind her.”

Do you think Ravelo was actually unaware of what her husband was doing? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

To learn more about the case, read these articles:

Photo: businessinsider.com



 

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