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Former NY law firm partner admits to conspiring to defraud two law firms out of more than $7 million

(NEWARK, N.J.) – Valerie A. Nickerson, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New Jersey Division, and William E. Fitzpatrick, Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, announced a Bergen County, New Jersey, woman today admitted using bogus litigation support companies to obtain millions of dollars from two law firms where she was a partner.

Keila Ravelo, 52, of Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Kevin McNulty in Newark federal court to two counts of an indictment charging her with conspiracy to commit wire fraud (Count One) and tax evasion (Count Nine).

Ravelo worked as a partner for a company identified in the indictment as “Law Firm 1” from July 1, 2005, through October 2010. She then became partner in another law firm, identified in the indictment as “Law Firm 2,” and worked there from October 2010 through November 2014.

From 2008 through July 2014, Ravelo and her husband, Melvin Feliz, 51, conspired to defraud Law Firm 1 and Law Firm 2, forming two limited liability companies, “Vendor 1” and “Vendor 2,” which purported to provide litigation support to the firms, but in fact provided no actual services to the firms. Ravelo and Feliz controlled Vendor 1 and Vendor 2 bank accounts and submitted invoices to Law Firm 1 and Law Firm 2 for work that was never performed for the law firms or their clients. Ravelo, in her capacity as a partner at the law firms, approved payments to Vendor 1 and Vendor 2, which Ravelo and Feliz later used for personal expenses. The law firms paid Vendor 1 and Vendor 2 approximately $7.8 million. Ravelo and Feliz willfully failed to report the fraudulent earnings on their tax returns.

On Aug. 25, 2015, Feliz pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Kevin McNulty in Newark federal court to an information charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of tax evasion. Before pleading guilty for the role he played in this wire fraud and tax evasion conspiracy, Feliz pleaded guilty to an indictment which charged him and two other men with conspiring to distribute approximately 20 kilograms of cocaine.

The charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. The tax evasion charge is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and $250,000 fine. Sentencing for Ravelo is scheduled for March 5, 2018. Feliz is awaiting sentencing.

Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick credited law enforcement officers of the Drug Enforcement Administration, New Jersey Division, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Valerie A. Nickerson, and law enforcement officers of IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jonathan D. Larsen, with the investigation leading to today’s plea.


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