With her criminal trial originally scheduled to start in just two weeks, former Willkie Farr & Gallagher partner Keila Ravelo appears to have agreed to a plea deal with federal prosecutors, who have accused her of multiple felony charges in an alleged scheme to defraud her former law firms.
According to court records Monday, a plea agreement hearing is set for Nov. 20 in Newark before Judge Kevin McNulty of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. The latest docket includes no mention of a trial that had previously been scheduled to begin Nov. 13, said William Skaggs, a spokesman for U.S. Attorneys’ Office in New Jersey.
Ravelo’s attorney, Steven Sadow, special counsel at Schulten Ward Turner & Weiss, said he is “not in a position to comment at this time” on whether his client has agreed to plead guilty to any charges. Skaggs also declined to comment.
Throughout her case, Ravelo, who was first arrested alongside her now-estranged husband, Melvin Feliz, in December 2014, has denied wrongdoing and has blamed Feliz. Her attorney, Sadow, has said Feliz he took advantage of her.
New Jersey federal prosecutors alleged the two used bogus litigation vendor companies to obtain more than $7.8 million from Willkie and Hunton & Williams, where she previously practiced.
Prosecutors said the couple funneled the majority of the funds into a joint bank account, using the money for personal expenses and investments. Ravelo is further accused of failing to report the earnings on her tax returns.
Ravelo has been charged with nine felony counts, including one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, four counts of wire fraud and four counts of tax evasion. The maximum potential sentence for the conspiracy charge and each count of wire fraud is 20 years in prison, while the tax evasion charges each carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
In August 2015, Feliz admitted to his role in the scheme, pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of tax evasion. He is awaiting sentencing on the charges and a separate drug charge.
Before she was arrested, Ravelo was representing MasterCard as a defendant in long-running antitrust litigation in the Eastern District of New York. After her arrest in late 2014, Willkie conducted an internal review and uncovered behind-the-scenes communications between Ravelo and plaintiffs attorney Gary B. Friedman that ultimately led a federal judge to reject a settlement in similar antitrust litigation against American Express. The judge said Friedman improperly sent Ravelo confidential information and attorney work product.
In Ravelo’s criminal case, her attorney in the past year has been seeking documents from law firms in the credit card litigation and documents from Friedman, a potential witness at her trial.
Friedman was initially called a “possible co-conspirator” by investigators, according to court documents, but Friedman has said that he “was used” and not a suspect. He said he sent documents to Ravelo that she or somebody working for her “doctored” to make it appear as if they were produced by a vendor.
In an interview Tuesday, Friedman said he was last in touch with the prosecution in Ravelo’s case in early September and had no personal knowledge of a plea deal. He said the last conversation he had with Ravelo was about two and a half years ago, when he told her to “plead today” and “these deals don’t get better over time.”
“It’s a long dance for a lot of people,” he said. “At some point, you come to accept the reality of the situation and try to get the best deal available.”
Meanwhile, Friedman, whose legal career was upended after his communications with Ravelo came to light, is working on what he has called a “deeply personal memoir” related to the drama that will be out in 2018.