Abbott Koloff and Jeff Green, North Jersey, December 22, 2014
A prominent antitrust attorney and her husband, who is accused of being the head of a New Jersey drug trafficking ring in a separate federal case, were arrested early Monday at their Englewood Cliffs home for allegedly stealing millions of dollars from two New York City law firms where she had been a partner, federal authorities said.
Keila D. Ravelo, 49, and Melvin Feliz, 50, appeared in federal court in Newark in the afternoon on charges that they conspired to commit wire fraud. The couple allegedly arranged to have two law firms where Ravelo was a partner pay more than $5.75 million in legal consulting fees to two dummy companies they established and controlled from 2008 through this past summer, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said in a news release.
Fishman said the work was never performed and that the couple used the money–including $250,000 paid to a jewelry store–to finance personal investments and purchase items for their own use.
Ravelo had been with the law firm of Willkie Farr & Gallagher until last month, a woman answering the phone at the company said on Monday. She had been a partner with Hunton & Williams from 2008 to 2010, according to that firm. Both firms, which were not identified by authorities, issued statements on Monday saying they are cooperating with the investigation.
Feliz had been charged in March with conspiring to distribute cocaine in a plot that authorities said included paying $550,000 to buy 20 kilograms of the drug in California and transport it to Bergen County, according to court papers. Authorities referred to Feliz as the “leader” of a drug trafficking organization in the filings and said he and two other men had been charged in the case after an investigation that included statements by a confidential informer.
The wire fraud charges announced Monday against Ravelo and Feliz carry a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and a fine of up to twice the defendants’ gross profit from the alleged scheme, Fishman said.
Ravelo, whose bail was set at $500,000, was released Monday after posting security in the form of a painting she said was worth $125,000, a $200,000 retirement fund and $325,000 of equity in a Miami condo. According to tax records, she owns two homes in Englewood Cliffs, one assessed at $2.4 million and the other at $1.4 million.
Two months ago, Ravelo was highlighted in a magazine segment called “Women Worth Watching” published by the Profiles in Diversity Journal. She wrote about herself for the article, which included a picture of her with first lady Michelle Obama, saying she specializes in antitrust litigation and has been working with the same “core team” of “smart, ambitious lawyers” for 10 years.
Two years ago, she was named to the board of directors of the National Center for Law and Economic Justice, an organization that helps impoverished families receive help from government agencies. She is no longer listed as a board member.