By Nathan Duke
A former Corona lawyer, activist and author of a Family Court guidebook was sentenced to three to nine years in prison this week for stealing more than $100,000 from clients, including a botched deal on a Bayside coâˆ’op apartment, the Queens district attorney said.
Arelia Taveras, 46, who presently lives in Minnesota, drew a threeâˆ’toâˆ’nineâˆ’year sentence from Queens Supreme Court Justice Joseph Grosso, Queens DA Richard Brown said. Taveras, who was also disbarred in 2007, had pleaded guilty last month to grand larceny charges for looting her escrow accounts to feed a gambling habit, the DA said.
“The defendant violated the trust of her clients and let down the entire legal system, which counts on members of the bar to conduct themselves in an ethical manner,” Brown said.
Taveras had stolen approximately $130,000 from four clients and a colleague and signed a confession of judgment for $135,922, the DA said. In one of her schemes, she had accepted $25,000 as a contract deposit and down payment for a coâˆ’op apartment she was selling in Bayside. But when the buyer’s application was denied by the coâˆ’op’s board, Taveras refused to return the money to the buyer.
Taveras bilked her other victims out of their money in real estate and divorce cases, the DA said.
In a videotaped statement submitted to the Grievance Committee of New York State Appellate Division and in a video she posted on YouTube, Taveras said she stole money from her clients because she was addicted to gambling, Brown said.
She later filed a racketeering lawsuit in New Jersey’s U.S. District Court against several casinos on the grounds that they enabled her addiction. That case was dismissed but is pending appeal.
Taveras was under investigation after the state Grievance Committee received a report in 2005 that Taveras had bounced a check to the Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection.
She was formerly the managing partner of Taveras Law Group and had represented Maria Vargas, the widow of a man killed in the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, in a paternity suit over the man’s estate.
Taveras had also worked as legal counsel for state Assemblyman Jose Peralta (Dâˆ’Jackson Heights).
The disbarred lawyer also had written “The Gangsta Girl’s Guide to Child Support,” a book that guided women through the loopholes of family court.
Reach reporter Nathan Duke by eâˆ’mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718âˆ’229âˆ’0300, Ext. 156.