Making It Rain Through Fraud and Cocaine

By Joseph Fawbush, Esq. on November 09, 2020 | Last updated on August 10, 2021

To clarify any confusion, yes, the title of this blog is the title of my forthcoming Country music album. But it also accurately describes the underlying circumstances that resulted in a 14-year prison sentence for Melvin Feliz, who defrauded two law firms out of millions of dollars while simultaneously starting a cross-country drug trafficking ring. There's something to be said for going big. Unfortunately for Feliz, however, the only place he'll be going anytime soon is prison.

Fraudulent Litigation Support Companies

On Friday, November 6, while the rest of us sweated out the election, U.S. District Judge Kevin McNulty sentenced Feliz to 14 years in prison for fraudulently charging $7.8 million in litigation services which were never rendered. Between 2010 and 2014, Feliz and his wife, former attorney Keila Ravelo, set up two limited liability companies that ostensibly provided litigation support. During that time, they submitted invoices to two law firms totaling millions of dollars. They did not, however, do any work. Instead, Ravelo simply approved the invoices in her role as a partner at the firm.

Litigation support services have become popular and can provide valuable assistance. Law firms and in-house counsel often need scalable additional support to manage litigation, particularly complex litigation. It helps, though, if the company you hire actually does the work. Throwing away millions is going to be noticed. It's not clear (to me, at least) how Ravelo figured she'd get away with it.

Feliz and Ravelo also failed to report their ill-gotten income, because why not add tax fraud to the list of criminal charges against you? Feliz was convicted, as was his wife, of wire fraud and tax evasion. The sentencing in the case was repeatedly delayed to get cooperation from the defendants. Ravelo was sentenced to 60 months in 2018.

Don't Forget the Part About Drug Trafficking

Separately from all of this, Feliz was also engaged in a drug-smuggling operation involving 20 kilograms of cocaine. This scheme went as well as his attempt at fraud, with a tractor-trailer loaded with hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash being stopped in California. Feliz initially pled guilty but later tried to withdraw these guilty pleas to take advantage of the First Step Act, passed last year. Judge McNulty denied those motions to withdraw the plea, however, finding that the withdrawals were "primarily strategic in relation to sentencing" and that his claims to innocence were suspect.

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