2009-03-27 / Top Stories

AA 587 Lawyer Pleads Guilty To Swindling Clients

A Manhattan lawyer who swindled clients to feed her gambling bug thought that pleading guilty would get her less time in jail, but it did not work out that way.

Arelia Taveras, 46, who allegedly stole more than $130 thousand from the accounts of several real estate and divorce clients, was sentenced to spend the next ten years in jail after pleading guilty in Queens Criminal Court.

Taveras gained some notoriety last year for bringing lawsuits against six Atlantic City casinos as well as one in Las Vegas. The suits alleged that they allowed her to lose nearly $1 million dollars at their facilities. She argued that they were wrong in allowing her to continue gambling and losing money. She was one of the small number of lawyers who were involved in arguing the cases of a number of Washington Heights residents who died in the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 in Rockaway in November of 2001.

The American Airlines flight, an Airbus A-310, lost its tail and crashed into the intersection of Beach 131 Street and Newport Avenue in Belle Harbor only two months and a day after the deadly terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Taveras was the attorney for some of the family members of the victims of that attack as well."It's like crack, only gambling is worse than crack, because it's mental," Taveras told the court. "It creeps up on you. It's a sickness." She claims that the casino owners should have stopped her when she spent days on end sitting at the gambling machines and table. She says they had a duty to notice her compulsive gambling practices and cut her off.

Court officials said this week that there is no indication that she swindled any of her American Airline 587 clients nor any of the family members of those who died in the 2001 terrorist attack in the World Trade Center.

Taveras apologized to the clients that she swindled prior to sentencing.

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