Bergen County man sentenced to 14 years in prison for role in $7 million fraud scheme and cross-country drug distribution scheme
NEWARK, N.J. – Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New Jersey Division, Susan A. Gibson, and U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, Craig Carpenito, announced a Bergen County, New Jersey, man was sentenced today to 168 months in prison for using bogus litigation support companies to obtain millions from two law firms where his wife was a partner and for his role in a scheme to transport more than 20 kilograms of cocaine from California to New Jersey.
Melvin Feliz, 54, of Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Kevin McNulty to an information charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of tax evasion. He also previously pleaded guilty to Count One of an indictment charging him and two co-defendants with conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine. Judge McNulty imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.
Feliz’s wife, Keila Ravelo, 55, also of Englewood Cliffs, worked as a partner at Law Firm 1 from July 1, 2005, through October 2010. She then joined Law Firm 2 as a partner and worked there from October 2010 through November 2014. Feliz admitted that during that time, Feliz and Ravelo formed two limited liability companies, Vendor 1 and Vendor 2, that purported to provide litigation support for both firms, but in fact provided no actual services.
Feliz admitted that from 2008 through July 2014, he and Ravelo controlled the Vendor 1 and Vendor 2 bank accounts and submitted invoices to Law Firm 1, Law Firm 2 and a client of both firms for work that was never performed. Ravelo, in her capacity as a partner at the law firms, approved payments to Vendor 1 and Vendor 2 that Ravelo and Feliz later used for personal expenses.
Over the course of the conspiracy, the law firms paid Vendor 1 and Vendor 2 approximately $7.8 million. Feliz admitted that he failed to report the income on his tax returns, including $2.36 million in illicit profits from 2012 alone.
Separately, Feliz and co-defendants Irving Olivero-Pena, 48, of Edgewater, New Jersey, and Robert Crawford, 45, of Long Island City, New York, each previously pleaded guilty to their roles in a cocaine distribution scheme. They admitted that from January 2011 through March 2014, they conspired to purchase narcotics for distribution in New Jersey. On Oct. 22, 2012, they met a courier in Bergen County. They admitted that they gave the courier $549,950 in currency to transport to California via tractor trailer, where it would be used to purchase approximately 20 kilograms of cocaine. Afterwards, the courier would transport the cocaine to New Jersey for distribution. The currency was ultimately seized by law enforcement officers in California.
In addition to the prison term, Judge McNulty sentenced Feliz to five years of supervised release and ordered forfeiture of $7.9 million. Restitution will be determined at a later date. Ravelo was sentenced in October 2018 to five years in prison. Crawford was sentenced in July 2015 to 10 years in prison. Olivero-Pena is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 9, 2020.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), New Jersey Division, under direction of Special Agent in Charge Susan A. Gibson; and special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael Montanez in Newark, with the investigation leading to today’s sentencing.