Criminal Justice

Criminal defense lawyer convicted for conspiracy to launder drug cash loses federal appeal

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Laundered money

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A federal appeals court has upheld the conviction of a criminal defense lawyer accused of using his position as a law firm partner to help two clients launder drug money.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Richmond, Virginia, upheld the conviction of suspended Baltimore lawyer Kenneth Wendell Ravenell in an April 25 opinion.

Reuters and have coverage.

Ravenell was convicted of conspiracy to commit money laundering in December 2021 but was acquitted on other charges. He was a partner at Murphy, Falcon, Murphy, Ravenell & Koch.

Prosecutors presented evidence that Ravenell advised one drug client how to launder drug proceeds through businesses and real estate investments and how to mix drug profits with cash raised by the business ventures. One business created by the drug client was LOC Marketing, which put on concerts and charged a cash fee at the door.

Ravenell was also accused of putting $1.8 million in the client’s drug funds or commingled drug funds into firm bank accounts before directing that much of the money be distributed to projects and third parties to benefit the drug client. Ravenell allegedly kept around $600,000 in deposits for legal fees while also accepting cash payments.

Ravenell was also accused of using drug money for his legal fees that he received from an associate of the second client.

Ravenell had argued that he wasn’t aware of the source of the funds. On appeal, he said his conviction should be reversed because of faulty jury instructions and because there is no way to know whether he was convicted on a legally valid theory.

The 4th Circuit ruled against Ravenell on all four points in its 2-1 opinion.

“Our legal system only works,” the 4th Circuit said, “if society maintains its faith in the integrity and independence of those who champion the accused. If counsel is deemed complicit in criminal schemes and conspiracies, trust in the adversary process will diminish, and a vital safeguard of those sacred rights etched in our Constitution will be lost. This sad case of an attorney using his special knowledge of our laws to criminal advantage is an isolated occurrence, so fortunately distant from the standards held high by those who undertake the public service of criminal defense.”

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