MGM National Harbor Investment Leads to RICO Trial for Drug Kingpin’s Lawyer

Posted on: December 8, 2021, 12:41h. 

Last updated on: December 8, 2021, 02:22h.

The trial of a top Baltimore defense lawyer accused of racketeering and money laundering for a major drug distribution ring kicked off Tuesday.

Ken Ravenell
Ken Ravenell, above, was one of Maryland’s top defense lawyers until his 2019 indictment on RICO and money laundering charges. (Image: Baltimore Sun)

Prosecutors believe Ken Ravenell enjoyed a “more than 20-year criminal partnership” with drug kingpin Richard Byrd, and even helped him invest $2 million in the MGM National Harbor in Maryland.

In February 2017, Byrd was sentenced to 26 years in prison after he admitted being the head of a vast marijuana and cocaine distribution network that made him multiple millions of dollars.

Now his lawyer faces the music. The Baltimore Sun reports that many of the witnesses testifying against Ravenell in the case are the same drug dealers he kept out of prison when he acted as their defense attorney over the years.

Hidden Investment

Byrd turned against his alleged legal fixer from his prison cell, informing authorities of Ravenell’s alleged role in his operations. According to prosecutors, this is because he feared Ravenell had stiffed him over the National Harbor investment.

It’s illegal for an individual with connections to organized crime to have an ownership interest in a US casino. So Byrd’s investment was “layered through two intermediaries” and there was no paperwork linking him to the deal.

“[Byrd initially] said he wouldn’t cooperate against Ravenell because he thought Ravenell would manage his investment in the MGM casino and provide for Byrd’s children,” Assistant US Attorney Leo Wise told jurors, as reported by the Sun.

“It was only later that year when it became clear to Byrd that wasn’t happening … that he changed his mind and decided to do the right thing and tell the truth about what he and Ravenell had been doing all along,” he added.

Drug-Money ‘Bank’

What Ravenell had been doing, according to prosecutors, is treating the law firm Murphy Falcon Murphy, of which he was then a partner, as a “bank” for Byrd’s criminal organization, laundering millions of dollars in drug money through the ledgers.

Prosecutors plan to bring to the stand former drug dealers in Byrd’s operation who will testify they dropped off cash to Ravenell for him to wash. Prosecutors believe Ravenell also taught them how to set up shell companies and comingle funds, according to the Sun.

Ravenell’s lawyer, Lucius Outlaw, said in opening arguments Tuesday that the federal government has no proof that these cash drop-offs took place. He also noted that, for all the millions Ravenell is alleged to have laundered, he is strapped for cash and is being represented pro bono.

Outlaw said those who are testifying against his client are criminals and proven liars who are looking for “get out of jail” cards.

He also said there was no concrete proof that the MGM casino investment ever existed.

The trial is expected to last about a month.