Baltimore defense attorney sentenced to 57 month in federal prison for money laundering conspiracy


The defendant used his law firm escrow account to launder drug proceeds

Date: June 22, 2022


U.S. District Judge Liam O'Grady of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, who presided over this case in the District of Maryland, sentenced Kenneth Wendell Ravenell, of Monkton, Maryland, to 57 months in federal prison June 22, 2022, followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $1.8 million for conspiracy to commit money laundering conspiracy charge. Ravenell was convicted of that charge on December 28, 2021, after a 16-day trial.

The sentence was announced by First Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Phil Selden; Special Agent in Charge Darrell J. Waldon of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office; and Assistant Special Agent in Charge Orville O. Greene of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Baltimore District Office. The United States Attorney has recused himself from this case.

The trial evidence proved that Ravenell received drug proceeds from clients and associates who engaged in drug trafficking. Evidence was presented that Ravenell also used bank accounts of the law firm to launder more than a million dollars; used the law firm's bank accounts to receive drug payments and make payments to attorneys retained to represent other members of the conspiracy; and used the law firm's bank accounts to make various investments on behalf of a drug trafficker client, concealing and misrepresenting the source of the funds and promoting the client's unlawful activity. According to trial evidence, Ravenell also received substantial cash payments derived from drug sales as compensation for laundering money.

Specifically, the trial evidence demonstrated that from 2009 through 2014, Ravenell gave a drug dealer advice on how to launder the millions of dollars of cash that the dealer's marijuana sales generated. Ravenell advised the drug dealer to set up businesses that generated cash themselves and make investments in real estate projects, which the drug dealer did, in order to launder drug proceeds. The drug dealer's business activities were mainly in entertainment, where he organized concerts and other events. Drug proceeds were used to pay expenses, like renting venues, hiring entertainers, and purchasing food and alcohol for re-sale. Attendees to these events largely paid in cash for their tickets, which provided a second opportunity to launder money, namely, by mixing cash generated by marijuana sales with cash generated by ticket sales. Ravenell and the drug dealer discussed all aspects of these events and the drug dealer's entertainment-related activities, including the use of drug proceeds to fund the events and the mixing of drug proceeds with ticket sales.

In 2011, the drug dealer was arrested and became a formal client of Ravenell's and the law firm where he was a partner at that time. Between 2011 and 2014, the trial evidence showed that in addition to advising the drug dealer on how to launder money, Ravenell personally laundered his client's drug proceeds using the firm's attorney trust account. Ravenell accepted more than $1.8 million in drug proceeds and funds co-mingled with drug proceeds from entities and individuals associated with the drug dealer. Ravenell also directed the payment of more than $1.2 million of these drug proceeds from the law firm's accounts to various projects and third parties to benefit his client. Ravenell's purpose in accepting and disbursing these funds was to conceal the source of the funds as drug proceeds and promote his client's on-going marijuana distribution activities.

According to trial evidence in 2013, a client facing federal narcotics charges paid Ravenell more than $350,000 in drug proceeds through an associate of the client. Ravenell instructed the associate to convert the drug proceeds into money orders and other instruments to conceal the source of the funds. After Ravenell withdrew from the case, the client learned that Ravenell had only credited $187,000 to his case, not the more than $350,000 that the client had paid.

First Assistant United States Attorney Phil Selden commended the IRS-CI, the DEA, the Maryland Transportation Authority Police Department, the Phoenix (Arizona) Police Department, and the Arizona Financial Crimes Task Force for their work in the investigation. Mr. Selden thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Leo J. Wise and Zachary Ray, and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Derek Hines, who prosecuted the case.