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Federal indictment offers new details of Baltimore attorney Ravenell’s alleged scheme to help drug kingpin

When federal prosecutors added two new defendants to the criminal case against Baltimore attorney Kenneth Ravenell last month, they also spelled out new details of the steps Ravenell allegedly took to aid a drug organization through money laundering and obstruction.

The superseding indictment, returned Dec. 17, lists specific instances of what prosecutors say was Ravenell working to further the criminal interests of his drug kingpin client Richard Byrd, including a handoff of $50,000 in a Louis Vuitton bag in a restaurant parking lot, an attempted meeting to discuss drug money at a Four Seasons hotel in Atlanta, and visiting a jailed co-conspirator without informing his attorney.

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In one instance, Ravenell signed up as the attorney for one of his client’s co-conspirators in 2013, and asked him “to provide him with information on money that was still ‘on the street,’ ” the indictment says.

That man, Jerome Castle, “understood that Ravenell was asking for information on outstanding narcotics debts owed” to Byrd and “wrote the names of all the narcotics dealers who still owed [Byrd] money and the amounts they owed him,” the indictment says.

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Through their investigation, federal prosecutors gained details of how Ravenell managed Byrd’s money for other business interests, including a Florida project with a major Baltimore developer, Dean Harrison, according to the indictment.

Harrison did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Ravenell has long been one of the top defense lawyers in Baltimore, and continues to handle cases while his federal charges are pending. He plans to fight the case against him but has declined to discuss it in detail.

The new indictment added veteran attorney Joshua Treem and private investigator Sean Gordon to the case, alleging that they visited Byrd in late 2017 and had him sign a document making false statements. The meeting was apparently recorded.

Treem, Gordon and Ravenell all had initial appearances in court, via Zoom, on the new charges Wednesday afternoon and were allowed to remain free on supervised release. An arraignment hearing was scheduled for later this month.

Ravenell first represented Byrd in an early 1990s armed drug-dealing case in Baltimore that resulted in a five-year prison sentence. At some point after that, the government has said, Byrd emerged as major nationwide dealer of marijuana.

Before his own indictment, Ravenell contended that Byrd was a behind-the-scenes power figure in entertainment circles, whose marketing campaigns on behalf of major companies included holding events with celebrities and athletes in major cities.

Federal prosecutors gained access to accounting records from the prominent Baltimore law firm of Murphy, Falcon & Murphy, which they say showed how Byrd moved $1.9 million through the firm, which retained about $630,000 for legal fees.

The records showed that $200,000 passed through the law firm related to a project called “Overtown Reborn.” Florida business records for Overtown Reborn LLC show it was formed in early 2013, listing its managing partners as Baltimore developer Harrison and James Bowie II, a Texas-based attorney who pleaded guilty in 2017 to laundering funds for Byrd.

Harrison has not been accused of any crime. He is part of a team selected by the city in 2019 to rehab nearly 40 vacant homes in the Upton neighborhood, a $9.7 million project, and his LinkedIn bio lists previous projects including The Uplands, East Baltimore Biotech, the Zenith, 414 Water Street, Ashland Commons and Eager Park Homes.

The indictment of Treem and Gordon stems from two meetings they had with Byrd in 2017, asking him to sign a statement regarding Ravenell. The indictment recounts Byrd steering the conversation toward his desire to recover money he invested in an MGM casino from unnamed attorneys from the Murphy firm.

Representatives from the Murphy firm have declined previously to comment, but they broke their silence to refute that they had invested money with Byrd. Hassan Murphy said his investment in MGM National Harbor “absolutely [did] not” include money from Byrd.

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“My father and I have always acted legally and ethically in all of our dealings,” Murphy said. “We have not been charged with any crime, and it would be inappropriate for us to further comment about pending litigation in which we are not a party.”

Ravenell left the firm in 2014 after a raid by the DEA and IRS, and no one from the firm has been charged in the case or accused of a crime.

The indictment recounts a series of interactions Ravenell had with members of Byrd’s operation, who are identified by initials. It describes Ravenell repeatedly collecting money from Castle, who would go on to plead guilty to cocaine and marijuana trafficking charges as well as money laundering in late 2013, and who received 14 years in prison.

The indictment describes Ravenell and Byrd in 2013 discussing how the owner of an Arizona shipping company, used to transport marijuana to the East Coast, was a threat to provide incriminating information on Byrd to law enforcement. Prosecutors say Ravenell sent a private investigator to Arizona who met with the witness and misled him into believing he was law enforcement and obtained information.

In another instance in 2013, Ravenell and a different investigator, Gordon, sought to meet with an indicted co-conspirator without permission from the person’s lawyer. He declined to be interviewed. Gordon later visited the person at a facility in Texas, asking him to “make a false written statement” that he had not been involved with Byrd’s trafficking activities. The person again refused.

Prosecutors say Ravenell also traveled to Atlanta in July 2014, after Byrd had been indicted, for the purpose of meeting with someone to discuss drug proceeds that Byrd had given to them. Ravenell visited Byrd later that month and told him the person had failed to show up for an arranged meeting at the Four Seasons hotel.

“Indictments contain allegations, not proven facts,” said Lucius T. Outlaw III, one of Ravenell’s attorneys. “Kenneth Ravenell looks forward to showing in court how the government’s allegations against him fall far short of the truth, and that he has always been and remains a respected and ethical attorney who has spent his career fighting injustice.”

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