Criminal Justice

Ex-partner accused of bilking her law firms acted as her husband 'coercively demanded,' lawyer says

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A former BigLaw partner accused along with her husband of creating phony companies to bilk her law firms acted according to the husband’s demands, her lawyer says.

The defense lawyer for Keila Ravelo, a former antitrust partner at Willkie Farr & Gallagher and Hunton & Williams, issued the unusual statement (PDF) on Ravelo’s behalf after Ravelo’s husband pleaded guilty in the alleged scheme on Tuesday, Reuters reports.

Ravelo’s husband, Melvin Feliz, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and tax evasion. The couple is accused of submitting $7.8 million in phony bills for litigation support to her former law firms.

Ravelo’s lawyer, Steven Sadow, said in the statement that Ravelo “acted as Feliz coercively demanded—not freely, voluntarily or with criminal intent.” Ravelo “hoped and prayed” Feliz would take full responsibility and publicly proclaim his wife acted as he demanded, but he instead “caved to the intense and overwhelming government pressure to implicate Ms. Ravelo,” the statement said.

Sadow told Reuters that Feliz had established a legitimate litigation support company years before the alleged fraud, and Ravelo was not involved with business or family finances. “Her estranged husband controlled every aspect of the family, made every decision involving money,” Sadow said.

Sadow told Reuters that Ravelo had believed Feliz’s assurances he was not involved in a drug conspiracy and she was upset when he pleaded guilty in February to in a plot to smuggle cocaine into New Jersey.

“The public must keep in mind that Feliz is a convicted drug trafficker and fraudster, facing a total of 14 years in federal prison, who deceived his wife and children in both his personal and business dealings for more than a decade,” the statement says. “Unbeknownst to Ms. Ravelo, her estranged husband led a dual life, including having a secret second family and claiming to be a legitimate businessman. As the government has now seen fit to use its tremendous power to intimidate Feliz rather than seek real justice, Ms. Ravelo and her children will continue to suffer for his sins of abuse and pay dearly for his deceit, self-destruction and the interpersonal trauma he has caused.”

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