Bergen County, New Jersey, Man Admits Conspiring With Wife To Defraud Two New York Law Firms Out Of More Than $7 Million
NEWARK, N.J. – A Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, man today admitted using bogus litigation support companies to obtain millions from two law firms where his wife was a partner, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Melvin Feliz, 48, of Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 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.
According to documents filed in the case and statements made in court:
Feliz’s wife, Keila Ravelo, 49, 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 a combined total of approximately $7.8 million. Feliz admitted that he failed to report the income on his tax returns, including nearly $2,360,000 in illicit profits from 2012 alone.
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 is scheduled for Dec. 14, 2015.
Charges against Ravelo are merely accusations and are still pending. She is considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited law enforcement officers of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Newark Division, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Carl Kotowski, 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.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew Kogan, Brian Urbano and Ronnell Wilson of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division; Barbara Ward, Chief of the office’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Unit; and Assistant U.S. Attorney David Foster of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecution’s Division in Newark.
Defense counsel: Jason Orlando Esq., Jersey City, New Jersey