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The former Bayside and Jackson Heights attorney who was disbarred after allegedly squandering clients’ money on gambling stints in Atlantic City has been indicted on related charges, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.
Arelia Taveras, 46, who now lives in Bloomington, Minn., is accused of looting more than $100,000 from the escrow accounts of several clients, Brown said.
“According to the charges, the defendant not only violated the trust that her clients placed in her, but she let down the entire legal system, which counts on members of the bar to conduct themselves in an ethical matter,” Brown said in a statement.
Taveras was arraigned Nov. 12 before acting Queens Supreme Court Justice John Latella on an 11−count indictment charging her with grand larceny, offering a false instrument for filing and scheme to defraud, the DA said.
She faces up to seven years in prison if convicted, Brown said. She was ordered held on $50,000 bail and to return to court Jan. 7, 2009, Brown said.
Taveras, who was once an attorney for state Assemblyman Jose Peralta (D−Jackson Heights) and wrote a book called “The Gangsta Girl’s Guide to Child Support,” accepted $2,500 from a buyer as a contract deposit and an additional $22,500 as a down payment on a co−op apartment in Bayside that she was selling, Brown said. After the buyer’s application was denied by the co−op board, she tried to get her deposit back, but Taveras refused to return the money, Brown said.
After numerous requests, according to the criminal complaint, the buyer’s attorney received a call from Taveras saying she would not repay the money and that she was in a rehabilitation center in Colorado.
Taveras is also accused of ripping off three other clients. In one instance, Taveras failed to release $10,000 of the client’s money that was held in escrow, the DA’s office said.
Another client was allegedly bilked of $40,000 stemming from the sale of commercial property, Brown said. And Taveras is accused of stealing $34,142 from a third client who hired her for a divorce proceeding and the refinancing of his home, Brown said.
Finally, Taveras allegedly bounced a $1,500 check repaying a colleague who had lent her the money for personal expenses, Brown said.
During her disbarment hearings, Taveras said she had taken client money because of a gambling addiction and blamed the grievance committee of the New York Bar Association for not properly supervising young attorneys, Brown said.
Later, she allegedly told detectives that she was a personal friend of the president of the Dominican Republic and that she could disappear in the Dominican Republic and never be found, Brown said. She also allegedly told detectives that the alleged thefts were not a big deal and that she would pay back all of the money, Brown said. Taveras was disbarred in June 2007.
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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