Sunday, March 16, 2008

Former 9/11 Lawyer Sues Casinos For Enabling Her Gambling Addiction

By Heather Chin (March 10, 2008)

After losing over $1 million and her career via casino hopping, a once prominent lawyer from Queens who represented WTC victim’s families sues casinos for not stopping her.

In 2000, the New York Daily News named Arelia Taveras one of “21 New Yorkers to Watch in the 21st Century.” As legal counsel for a Queens assemblyman who fought for compensation for victims of the September 11th attacks and 2001’s Flight 587 crash in Queens, she did TV spots and was a respected rising star in the community. Now, she works at a call center in Minnesota, where she ended up after being disbarred for forging bank slips to cover up the theft of almost $100,000 from four non-9/11 related clients to fund her gambling addiction

As reported in the New York Daily News this weekend, Taveras is also suing a total of six casinos in Atlantic City and Las Vegas for $20 million on charges that they failed to notice that she was gambling excessively and instead of stopping her, enabled her to keep playing.

Taveras claims that at some casinos she would stay at the tables for days, without eating and sleeping (or with only candy bars and orange juice that she says staff provided her), passing out and even using disposable wipes to brush her teeth, and that casino staff saw her behavior, so “they had a duty of care to me.” She adds that staff at Atlantic City casinos knew her so well that they let her bring her dog along in her purse and even transported her between casinos.

As a result of her compulsive gambling and losses of up to $1 million, Taveras lost her law practice, her apartment, her parents’ home, and still owes the IRS $58,000, in addition to the criminal charges she faces for theft and forgery.

The casinos deny wrongdoing and responsibility for problems they see as purely Ms. Taveras’s, and according to AP reports, her chances to win the lawsuit are small, as it will be difficult to prove that casino staff failed to notice she had a problem.

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