Skadden is pleased to announce that Maria Cruz Melendez, a former federal criminal prosecutor in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York (EDNY), is joining the firm’s New York office as a partner in our Government Enforcement and White Collar Crime Group. She will advise corporations and individuals in criminal and civil matters brought by U.S. federal and state authorities. She also will handle domestic and cross-border investigations and civil and administrative proceedings conducted by the Department of Justice, Securities and Exchange Commission and Office of Foreign Assets Control in connection with U.S. securities laws, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and other domestic and international regulatory enforcement matters. In addition, Ms. Cruz Melendez will draw on her law enforcement experience to advise corporations on prevention, oversight and compliance programs designed to address sexual harassment in the workplace and related matters. Prior to joining the EDNY in 2012, Ms. Cruz Melendez was an associate at Skadden for six years.
Most recently, Ms. Cruz Melendez served as deputy chief of the Civil Rights Section of the EDNY, following nearly three years as deputy chief of the Public Integrity Section. She previously served in the General Crimes Section and Organized Crime and Gangs Section and was also appointed as the EDNY’s grand jury coordinator.
During her decade-long tenure at the EDNY, Ms. Cruz Melendez investigated, prosecuted and supervised several high-profile cases, including a long-running investigation that culminated in last year’s six-week trial and conviction of the entertainer known as R. Kelly for racketeering and other crimes related to criminal abuse of women and children. She also handled significant cases involving fraud, corruption and the abuse of power, including the conviction of an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn for illegal wiretapping; an official in the Richmond County District Attorney’s Office for theft and embezzlement; various parties charged with a multimillion-dollar mortgage fraud scheme; and former executives of the Central United Talmudic Academy for the theft of millions of dollars from a federal school meal program.
Ms. Cruz Melendez also has prosecuted multiple organized crime cases, securing the conviction of members of La Cosa Nostra, including the Lucchese and Bonanno crime families, and successfully opposing a request for a sentence reduction for Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano, who testified against former Gambino family crime boss John Gotti. Ms. Cruz Melendez also obtained the conviction of the mastermind of a 1979 bus ambush in Puerto Rico that resulted in the murder and serious injury of multiple U.S. Navy service members. While at the EDNY, Ms. Cruz Melendez also represented the government on numerous appeals before the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“We are thrilled to welcome Maria back to the firm,” said David Meister, head of Skadden’s Government Enforcement and White Collar Crime Group in New York. “Throughout her career, Maria has distinguished herself as a creative and tenacious advocate who engenders the confidence of clients and colleagues. These qualities, along with her significant experience as a prosecutor, make her an ideal fit for our practice.”
Ms. Cruz Melendez is a vocal proponent of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), leading the EDNY to more directly address issues of underrepresentation through the creation of a formal committee dedicated to DEI issues. She subsequently served as co-chair of the EDNY’s Diversity Committee and a member of the EDNY’s Hiring Committee.
Ms. Cruz Melendez said, “Rejoining Skadden offers me an opportunity to utilize my prior experience both at the firm and as a prosecutor to help clients navigate their most significant legal challenges. Additionally, the firm’s long-standing commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion aligns with my values, and I am eager to continue my work in this critically important area.”
Ms. Cruz Melendez graduated magna cum laude from Notre Dame Law School, where she served as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Legislation. She earned a B.A. degree, cum laude, from Harvard University.