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Real estate mogul Leona Helmsley sentenced to prison

Real estate mogul Leona Helmsley sentenced to prison


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Leona Helmsley, nicknamed the “Queen of Mean” by the press, receives a four-year prison sentence, 750 hours of community service, and a $7.1 million tax fraud fine in New York. For many, Helmsley became the object of loathing and disgust when she quipped that “only the little people pay taxes.”

Leona’s husband, Harry, was one of the world’s wealthiest real estate moguls, with an estimated $5 billion to $10 billion in property holdings. The couple lived in a dazzling penthouse overlooking Central Park and also maintained an impressive mansion in Greenwich, Connecticut. Leona, who operated the Helmsley Palace on Madison Avenue, was severely disliked by her employees.

Though they lavishly furnished their homes and hotel, the Helmsleys were curiously diligent about evading the required payments and taxes for their purchases. Much of their personal furniture was written off as a business expense, and there were claims that the Helmsleys extorted free furnishings from their suppliers. Contractors were hardly ever paid on time-if at all-and many filed lawsuits to recover even just a portion of what they were owed. Leona reportedly also purchased hundreds of thousands of dollars of jewelry in New York City but insisted that empty boxes be sent to Connecticut so that she could avoid the sales tax.

Given her offensive personality, many were quite pleased by Leona’s legal troubles. Even celebrity lawyer Alan Dershowitz could not win her immunity from the law. Following her conviction, Federal Judge John Walker publicly reprimanded her, saying, “Your conduct was the product of naked greed [and] the arrogant belief that you were above the law.” Leona Helmsley was sent to jail in 1992 and was released in 1994. In 2002, Helmsley, whose husband Harry died in 1997, again found herself in court after being sued by Charles Bell, a former employee who accused Leona of firing him soley because he was homosexual. A jury ordered Helmsley to pay him more than $11 million in damages.

Helmsley died in August 2007 at age 87. She famously left $12 million to her dog, Trouble.


Crime History, Dec. 12, 1989: ‘Queen of Mean’ sentenced for massive tax fraud

On this day, Dec. 12, 1989, Leona Helmsley, the New York hotelier and so-called “Queen of Mean” for the way she treated her staff, received a four-year prison sentence and a $7.1 million tax fraud fine.

The cutthroat real estate mogul became a symbol of 1980s greed after she was accused by unpaid contractors of trying to have her own company pay for more than $3 million in furnishings for Dunnellen Hall, her family’s 26-acre estate in Greenwich, Conn.

At trial, her fate was sealed when one employee had quoted her as saying, “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.”

Helmsley died at Dunnellen Hall in 2007 at age 87. In her will, she granted $12 million to her dog, a fluffy white Maltese named Trouble, and ordered that the dog be buried alongside her in a mausoleum.


Real estate mogul Leona Helmsley sentenced to prison - HISTORY

On this day, Dec. 12, 1989, Leona Helmsley, the New York hotelier and so-called “Queen of Mean” for the way she treated her staff, received a four-year prison sentence and a $7.1 million tax fraud fine.

The cutthroat real estate mogul became a symbol of 1980s greed after she was accused by unpaid contractors of trying to have her own company pay for more than $3 million in furnishings for Dunnellen Hall, her family’s 26-acre estate in Greenwich, Conn.

At trial, her fate was sealed when one employee had quoted her as saying, “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.”

Helmsley died at Dunnellen Hall in 2007 at age 87. In her will, she granted $12 million to her dog, a fluffy white Maltese named Trouble, and ordered that the dog be buried alongside her in a mausoleum.


'Queen of mean' Leona Helmsley dies

Leona Helmsley, the cutthroat hotel magnate whose title as the “queen of mean” was sealed during a tax evasion case in which she was quoted as snarling “only little people pay taxes,” died Monday at age 87.

Helmsley died of heart failure at her summer home in Greenwich, Conn., said her publicist, Howard Rubenstein.

Already experienced in real estate before her marriage, Helmsley helped her husband Harry run a $5 billion empire that included managing the Empire State Building. She became a household name in 1989 when she was tried for tax evasion. The sensational trial included testimony from disgruntled employees who said she terrorized both the menial and the executive help at her homes and hotels.

That image of Helmsley as the “queen of mean” was sealed when a former housekeeper testified that she heard Helmsley say: “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.”

She denied having said it, but the words followed her for the rest of her life.

Helmsley clearly enjoyed the luxury of the couple's private fortune, flying the globe in their 100-seat jet with a bedroom suite. The couple’s residences included a nine-room penthouse with a swimming pool overlooking Central Park atop their own Park Lane Hotel an $8 million estate in Connecticut a condo in Palm Beach and a mountaintop hideaway near Phoenix.

Their money supported charities, including NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and its affiliated Weill Cornell Medical College, which received tens of millions of dollars, including a $25 million gift in 2006 to improve its treatment of digestive diseases.

Yet Helmsley nickel-and-dimed merchants on her personal purchases, stiffed contractors who worked on her Connecticut home and terrorized both menial and executive help at her homes and hotels, detractors say.

When her husband died in 1997 at age 87, Helmsley said in a statement: “My fairy tale is over. I lived a magical life with Harry.”

Earlier this year, Forbes magazine ranked her as the 369th richest person in the world, with an estimated net worth of $2.5 billion.

She was 51, with the good looks of a former model and already a successful seller of residential real estate in a hot New York market, when she married Harry Helmsley in 1972.

He was 63 and one of the richest men in America.

In 1980 he made her president of Helmsley Hotels, a subsidiary that at the time operated more than two dozen hotels in 10 states, including the Park Lane, St. Moritz and Palace in New York and the Harley Hotels. Harley was a contraction of Harry and Leona.

For the better part of a decade, a glamorous Leona Helmsley smiled out of magazine ads dressed in luxurious gowns and tiara, advertising that the Palace was the only hotel in the world “where the Queen stands guard.”

The press portrayed them as an adoring couple, with Leona calling Harry “gorgeous one” and “pussycat.” Friends and acquaintances described her as generous, charming, playful and having a good sense of humor.

She threw parties on his birthdays at which guests wore buttons that said “I’m Just Wild About Harry” and he wore a button that said “I’m Harry.” The couple would dance until dawn.

On July 4, 1976, Harry Helmsley lit the Empire State Building in red, white and blue — a tribute not to the Bicentennial, but to his wife’s birthday. It cost $100,000 — “less than a necklace,” he said.

But the Helmsleys’ charmed life ended in 1988 when they were hit with tax-evasion charges.

Harry’s health and memory were so poor that he was judged incompetent to stand trial. His wife, after an eight-week trial, was convicted of evading $1.2 million in federal taxes by billing Helmsley businesses for personal expenses ranging from her underwear to $3 million worth of renovations to the Dunellen Hall estate in Connecticut.

Sentenced to four years in prison, she tried to avoid jail by pleading that Harry might die without her at his side. Her doctor said that prison might kill her because of high blood pressure and other problems. (At a March 1992 hearing, the judge rejected that argument and even ordered her to surrender on April 15 — tax day.)

Helmsley served a total of 21 months and was released in January 1994. She had 150 hours added to her 750 hours of community service because employees had done some of the chores for her.

Several top executives at Helmsley companies said their firings coincided with her release. She maintained she couldn’t have fired them because she had given up her management post — as a convicted felon she was barred from running enterprises with liquor licenses, such as hotels. The State Liquor Authority said it had no evidence that she was still in charge.

In 1996, two longtime partners of Harry Helmsley’s accused his wife of scheming to loot the main corporation, Helmsley-Spear Inc. They said she was stripping away company assets to avoid paying $11.4 million owed them and to make the company worthless, because Harry Helmsley had given them an option to buy Helmsley-Spear at a bargain price upon his death.

After he died a few months later, the dispute with the partners was eventually settled and control of Helmsley-Spear was turned over to them. The settlement freed Leona Helmsley to sell off other assets.

The Helmsleys’ charitable gifts may have run to the tens of millions, but people who dealt with them spoke bitterly of being stiffed.

One of them, a painting contractor, said Leona Helmsley wouldn’t pay an $88,000 bill for work on Dunellen Hall because she was entitled to a “commission” for the $800,000 worth of other jobs he got in Helmsley buildings.

After making a sales clerk rewrite a bill for earrings to save $4 in sales tax, she reportedly said: “That’s how the rich get richer.” Her lawyers suggested that the government came after her to make an example of someone with high visibility.

Helmsley was born Leona Mindy Rosenthal on July 4, 1920, the daughter of a Manhattan hat maker. She left college after two years to become a model.

She married a lawyer, Leo Panzirer, whom she divorced in 1959. Their only child, Jay Panzirer, later ran a Florida-based building supplies company that did extensive business with Helmsley properties. She later was briefly married to a garment industry executive, Joe Lubin.

Before her son’s death of a heart attack in 1982, she told interviewers she would not talk about him “because terrible things can happen to people these days.”

She evidently was referring to being knifed by robbers at her Palm Beach home in 1973. She was stabbed in the chest and suffered a collapsed lung, and Harry was wounded in the arm.

After her son died, she sued the estate for money and property she said her son had borrowed, and an eviction notice was served on her son’s widow, Mimi.

Mimi Panzirer said afterward that the legal costs wiped her out and “to this day I don’t know why they did it.”

Helmsley is survived by her brother and his wife, four grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.


May 15: “Queen of Mean” Leona Helmsley Checks Into Danbury Prison

Leona Helmsley was one of the most infamous celebrity billionaires of late 20th century New York, a hotel and real estate magnate who gained national notoriety for her reportedly tyrannical treatment of her staff. The wife of hotelier Harry Helmsley, Leona became the face of a marketing campaign that cast her as a “queen” who would only tolerate the highest and most exacting standards for Helmsley-owned hotel properties. The New York tabloids, however, teemed with stories of Mrs. Helmsley hurling abuse at hotel staff, colleagues, and building contractors and labeled her “the Queen of Mean” — a nickname that would follow her for the rest of her life.

An ad featuring “Queen” Leona Helmsley, circa 1986.

Throughout the 1980s, the Helmsleys encountered wave after wave of highly-publicized investigations and federal lawsuits regarding tax evasion, tax fraud, and extortion, but it wasn’t until 1989 that one of them resulted in a conviction. Rudy Giuluani, then serving as a U.S. Attorney, indicted the Helmsleys on charges of tax evasion regarding lavish, multi-million-dollar renovations on their Greenwich, Connecticut mansion. During the trial, a former Helmsley housekeeper famously testified that Leona once told her, “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.”

Leona was eventually found guilty on multiple charges of tax evasion, tax fraud, and mail fraud. Since the elderly Harry Helmsley was in failing health and ruled unfit to stand trial, only Leona was convicted and sentenced to jail time. After an appeal, her sentence was shortened to four years in prison, and on May 15, 1992, the 71-year-old Helmsley arrived at the low-security Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut, where she served 18 months before returning to her Greenwich home, where “the Queen of Mean” died in 2007 at the age of 87.


Tax Evasion

The Helmsleys had a net w orth of over $1 billion, but they were known for non-payment and disputing payments to contractors and other vendors.

In 1983, the Helmsleys purchased a mansion for $11 million and spent another $8 million having it refurbished and restored.

They didn&rsquot want to pay the $8 million, and the contractors sued them for non-payment. Although they paid most of the money, the damage had been done. The contractors sent copies of their falsified invoices to the New York Post, who did a story on the Helmsleys trying to avoid paying tax.

They were breaking the law by having the invoices made out to their company as business expenses. Eventually, they were indicted on tax-related charges. Harry&rsquos health declined rapidly, and he was ruled unfit to stand trial. Leona Helmsley would face the charges by herself.

Leona Helmsley was convicted on several charges. These included three counts of tax evasion, three of filing false personal tax return, and 16 counts of assisting in the filing of false corporate and partnership tax returns. There were also ten counts of mail fraud.

She was sentenced to 16 years in prison, but eventually, all but eight of the charges were dropped, resulting in a significantly reduced prison term. Ultimately, she only served 19 months.


History Of The Helmsley Building (Original New York Central Building)

The first issue one encounters when writing the history of many of New York City’s famous buildings is what name to apply to the article’s title. The problem is many of these famous buildings have been brought and sold over time resulting in various name changes. New Yorkers tend to stick to one name for a building. However that name tends to apply to the time period that they grew up in. The Helmsley Building is a great example of a building called different names by New Yorkers who come from various generations. The building was originally named the New York Central Building when it was first erected in the 1920s. In the 1950s, the building was renamed the New York General Building. Twenty years later it went through another name change in the 1970s as it became The Helmsley Building. Its safe to say that most New Yorkers under the age of 60 refer to the building as the Helmsley Building.

Transport has been at the forefront of every flourishing city since the birth of the United States. Leading the way was the development of the railroads. In New York City, the New York Central Railroad connected New York City to upstate New York as well as Boston, and other North Eastern cities as well as some in the Mid-West. It was a vital connection that heavily contributed to the growth of New York City. Originally, the train lines were led by big steam locomotives. However these locomotives that utilized coal eventfully caused issues in the tunnels that they went though into New York City. In the early 1900’s, steam locomotive were banned from entering the tunnels. New York City then developed electric lines that led into mid Manhattan and a new terminal was built called Grand Central Terminal. Just like in the old west, life sprouts heavily around train stations. The area around Grand Central Terminal was marked for big time development.

The area surrounding Grand Central Terminal was named Terminal City. This was in the location of Park Avenue between 41st and 46th streets. Buildings were proposed and roadways enhanced. Out of this development of Terminal City came the plans for a large building on Park Avenue with the plans for the viaduct roadway that had been built during the construction of Grand Central Terminal to go underneath the new building connecting the north and south sides of Park Avenue. The project utilized resources from both the private owners of Grand Central Terminal and city government.

The New York City architecture firm of Warren and Wetmore was hired to design the new building. Warren and Wetmore had already been responsible for designing many well known buildings and public transportation hubs on the East Coast of the United States as well as many buildings in Canada. The firm would play a significant role in the development of buildings in Manhattan in the 1920s and 30s. Construction began on what would become the New York Central Building in December of 1926. It took a long time to complete the New York Central Building as it was not until September of 1929 when the building was finally completed. The New York Central Building was breathtaking when first completed. At 540 feet tall, it was a symbol of the power of the the New York Central Railroad. The Railroad bragged that their building was taller than the Washington Monument.(1)

When the New York Central Railroad when bankrupt in the 1950s, the New York Central Building was sold and renamed the New York General Building. The story that everyone loves to tell is how the new owners of the building saved money by only having to replace the G and E in Central with a C and T to save money on the building’s name façade. The ownership of the New York General Building would be transferred to Harry Helmsley when Helmsley’s company Helmsley-Spear Management purchased the building in 1977. Harry Helmsley was a powerful New York Real Estate mogul. In 1954, Helmsley had purchased the Lincoln Building in New York City. Seven years later, Harry Helmsley would purchase the most famous building in New York City that we all know as the Empire State Building.

After purchasing the New York General Building, Harry Helmsley poured money into the fifty year’s old building completely refurbishing the interior and exterior structures. The original green roof of the New York General Building was completely gilded as wall as many of the building’s other structures. Harry Helmsley’s second wife Leona convinced Harry Helmsley to rename the building The Helmsley Building. Leona Helmsley would eventually earn the nickname the “Queen Of Mean,” for the way she treated staff. Together, with her husband Harry Helmsley, the two would have a huge impact in New York’s hotel business buying and managing hotel in New York and also Florida. Their hotels in New York included, the Park Lane Hotel, The Helmsley Palace Hotel and the New York Helmsley Hotel.

While the couple celebrated success in real estate, they did find themselves in big time trouble with the government over tax evasion charges in the late 1980s. Leona was found guilty and would spend just nineteen months in prison. In 1997, Harry Helmsley passed away. A year later Leona Helmsley sold the Helmsley Building to Max Capital Management. The two hundred and twenty five million dollar sale included an agreement that the new owners could not rename the building. Max Capital Management would spend fifty million dollars in renovations to the Helmsley Building over the years it owned the property. One of the most significant changes the new owners did was remove the gilding that Harry Helmsley had installed on the rooftop and other exterior sections of the Helmsley Building.

In 2005, seven years after Max Capital Management had purchased the building from The Helmsleys for 225 million dollars, Max Capital Management sold it for almost 500 million dollars more at a sale price of 705 million dollars. It was sold to a foreign state owned investment firm named Istithmar World of the government of Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Two years later in 2007, Goldman Sachs purchased the building for just over a billion dollars. Goldman Sachs would not celebrate the huge profits that pervious owners had received. The recession that began in 2008 would take its toll on the New York Real Estate Market. Goldman Sachs held onto the building for 8 years and them sold it in 2015 for 1.2 billion dollars to the Real Estate firm RXR Realty.

While The Helmsley Building has stood its ground since 1928, the construction of the Pan Am Building in 1963 has cast a large shadow quite literally over the Helmsley building from the south. Most people who drive under the Helmsley building from Park Ave North or those who simply cross the streets or walk the sidewalks in front of the Helmsley Building are often attracted to the size of the Pan Am Building which has been called the MetLife Building since 1981. The further one goes north and looks back at the Helmsley Building, the smaller it becomes as the MetLife Building rises above it. That’s the story of New York City Buildings. What once was one of the largest buildings in the city will become dwarfed by a new one rising up around it.


6 Tyrannical Bosses Far Worse Than Yours

We've all had those days (weeks"¦ months"¦) at work. Nothing seems to go right. Anything that can possibly go wrong does go wrong. Stuff you didn't even know could go wrong goes wrong. But before you throw in the towel, check out these tyrannical bosses and think to yourself, "At least I haven't been beheaded"¦ yet"¦"

1. Faye & Ray Copeland

When I retire, I look forward to traveling, spending a lot of time volunteering at a no-kill animal shelter, writing"¦ the usual stuff. Faye and Ray Copeland, however, decided that when they retired they would become serial killers. From 1986 to 1989, the elderly couple hired workers to help them around their farm in Missouri. After being tipped off by a former neighbor, police searched the farm and found five bodies buried. Faye insisted she was innocent, but evidence against her included a list in her handwriting of farmhands hired "“ 12 of them had X's scrawled next to their names. Of those 12, five of them were found dead. Police also found a cozy quilt inside the house made of the clothing of the men the Copelands had killed. Ray and Faye were the oldest couple ever sentenced to death in the United States at the ages of 75 and 69 respectively.

2. Elizabeth Báthory

No matter how good the pay was at Elizabeth Báthory's castles, it wasn't worth it: the Hungarian countess killed hundreds of girls and women, many who were employed as maids and servants on her property. She didn't just kill her victims, oh no. She tortured them first. During her trials, it was discovered that the methods she used to kill included starving, freezing, beating, burning and biting. Oddly, though, she was never sentenced to death. Her accomplices were, but Elizabeth was merely bricked up inside of a room at her house for the rest of her life. A small slit was left open so she could receive food. She was put under house arrest at the end of 1610 she died in August of 1614.

3. Rolandas Milinavicius

After reading this you might think twice about asking for a raise this year. In July 2007, a Georgia business owner shot and killed his only two employees when they asked for a little more compensation on their paychecks. Rolandas Milinavicius told police that he was stressed out because the business was accruing a lot of debt and the talk about raises just pushed him over the edge. I would assume that legal fees and not having an income at all due to being in prison would probably hamper his finances more than anything else he could have done. I could be wrong though I've never owned a business.

4. Henry Clay Frick

Back in 1892, Henry Clay Frick was not a boss you wanted to cross. Frick and his business partner Andrew Carnegie ended their working relationship when Frick reacted a little"¦ rashly"¦ to the Homestead Steel Strike. In 1892, a labor strike impacted the Homestead Works of the Carnegie Steel Company. Frick was staunchly anti-union and thought he would thwart picketing workers by having Pinkerton agents access the grounds via the river. When the agents got close enough, they fired into the crowd which was enough to start a full-blown riot. By the time the chaos was broken up by the state militia, several men were killed and many were wounded. Thanks, boss.

5. Henry VIII

It's common knowledge that Henry VIII had no qualms with having people close to him killed "“ wives, employees, friends, contemporaries, whatever. He had Sir Thomas More beheaded when More dared to disagree with King Henry's religious ideas. Prior to his death, More had served as Henry's Lord Chancellor. Another employee was the king's minister, Thomas Cromwell. He supported Henry when he was tired of Anne Boleyn and wanted to marry Jane Seymour. Jane died soon after childbirth and Cromwell quickly urged Henry to marry Anne of Cleves. The marriage was a disaster. Cromwell divorced them, but being of no further used to Henry, he was sentenced to death for treason. The young executioner hacked at Cromwell's head three times before he finally succeeded in beheading him. After that, Cromwell's head was boiled and place on a spike on London Bridge.

6. Leona Helmsley

Obviously real estate mogul Leona Helmsley would have been pretty horrifying to work for "“ she wasn't called the Queen of Mean for nothing. Stories of her ruthlessness abound. Lawyer Alan Dershowitz said he once had breakfast with Leona at one of the Helmsley hotels and the waiter brought him a cup of tea with a tiny bit of water spilled on the saucer. Alan says Leona grabbed the cup from him and smashed it on the floor, then demanded that the waiter get down on his hands and knees and beg for his job. Some stories claimed she would fire maids on the spot if she found so much as a crooked lampshade in a hotel room. One maid, when working through lunch, snagged an apple from the kitchen to quell her hunger. Of course, Leona fired her.

See, your job really isn't that bad. Or is it? What are your bad boss horror stories?


In popular culture

  • Her last name was adopted by WWE wrestler Triple H (Hunter Hearst Helmsley).
  • Helmsley was lampooned by Nora Dunn on several episodes of Saturday Night Live in the late 1980s.
  • Helmsley was a frequent butt of Kevin Nealon's jokes during his stint as anchor of SNL's Weekend Update.
  • Helmsley was a recurring character in the comic strip Zippy the Pinhead.
  • Her 'dog' appeared in a 2007 series of Mother Goose and Grimm comics.
  • The nickname "Queen Of Mean" has since been adopted by insult comic Lisa Lampanelli.
  • Two The Far Side comics featured her as the subject.
  • In the late eighties, Howard Stern Show cast member and voice actor Billy West had a recurring role on the show impersonating Helmsley, painting her as a racist and a homophobe.
  • She was lampooned as the villain of the 1991 computer adventure game, The Adventures of Willy Beamish, produced by Dynamix.
  • In the popular show Frasier she and Zsa Zsa Gabor are referred to jokingly as victims of a legal system biased against wealthy white women.
  • Director Tim Burton stated that Helena Bonham Carter's performance as the Red Queen in the 2010 film Alice in Wonderland was partly based on her.
  • In the 30 Rock episode Succession, Don Geiss remarks that Liz has "the charm and spark of a young Leona Helmsley."
  • One of Spy magazine's most famous "Separated at Birth" pictorials featured Helmsley side-by-side with The Joker as portrayed by Jack Nicholson.
  • Helmsley was mentioned on KRS-One's Edutainment album on the track entitled Exhibit D.
  • There is a shout out to "Leona" on Immortal Technique's The Martyr album at the beginning of the track entitled Rich Man's World (1%).

In film

The story of her adult life was dramatized in the 1990 TV movie Leona Helmsley: The Queen of Mean, which starred Suzanne Pleshette as Leona and Lloyd Bridges as Harry. Pleshette was nominated for an Emmy Award and a Golden Globe Award for the portrayal.


Leona Helmsley

Leona Helmsley, who died yesterday aged 87, was popularly known as the "Queen of Mean" and famous for her dictum that "only little people pay taxes".

A hatter's daughter from Brooklyn, in 1972 she became the second wife of Harry Helmsley, the "King Kong of Big Apple real estate" who had risen from $12-a-week office boy to multi-billionaire on the back of the Depression.

By the 1970s he had control of such architectural wonders as the Empire State Building, the Lincoln Building, 1 Penn Plaza and six of New York's top hotels. At its peak his empire had assets of $50 billion.

Helmsley would probably have been remembered as a rather colourless businessman had he not left Eve, his wife of 38 years, to marry an ambitious, mascara-caked young estate agent named Leona Roberts.

Although the Helmsleys were to give millions to charity, Leona wanted to flaunt her money too.

After their marriage the couple moved into a 10-room duplex with indoor pool atop the Park Lane Hotel, to which she soon added a mansion in Connecticut, a condominium in Palm Beach and a private jet. She had a minimum of 12 pictures of herself in every room.

During the 1980s she became famous for the lavish birthday parties which she threw for her elderly husband ("my pussy-cat, my snooky, wooky, dooky") with the theme "I'm just wild about Harry".

A "Harry's bar" was piled high with caviar, and the guests were serenaded by a 16-piece orchestra. On Leona's own birthday the Empire State Building was floodlit in her favourite colours of yellow, white and blue.

The Helmsleys indulged themselves with every conceivable luxury. A liveried servant bearing a silver platter of freshly-cooked shrimps would be required to attend Leona's early morning sessions in the swimming pool at the end of each lap the servant would hand her a shrimp to swallow ("Feed Mama," she would cry, as if she were a performing marine mammal).

In the 1980s, as her husband became increasingly crippled by a series of strokes, she was put in charge of Helmsley's hotel business.

She made much of her fetish for huge, fluffy towels. Advertisements had her saying: "I won't settle for skimpy towels - why should you?" She won more clients by publicly carpeting staff she thought were slipshod.

At lunch with one reporter she threw a tantrum when a waiter brought the bill without its customary embossed-leather case. "Find that," she barked, "or you'll be looking for another job." Another writer was amazed at her reaction when she uncovered a wrinkled bedspread. "The maid's a slob! Get her out of here. Out! Out!" she screamed.

In corporate advertisements Leona Helmsley posed in a tiara outside the Palace hotel, the only such establishment where "the Queen stands guard".

A series of facelifts which had stiffened her features into a cross between a smile and a snarl were a gift to cartoonists, who competed to portray Leona's "you're fired" face.

In the 1980s she was as much of a celebrity as Donald Trump. However, stories about her private life began to surface.

She was cast as a spiteful woman who, after her only son died intestate in 1982, sued to claim most of his estate, leaving her four grandchildren with just $432 apiece.

Harry Helmsley even sued for the money it had cost to have the body flown from Florida to New York.

In 1985 a journalist with the New York Post was tipped off that "something was going on" at the $8 million, 28-room, Jacobean-style mansion the couple had bought at Greenwich, Connecticut.

A year later the details were splashed across the paper's front page: "Helmsley Scam Bared". In 1989 the Helmsleys were charged on 235 counts of evading more than $4 million in taxes.

They were accused of buying personal items ranging from a $210,000 mahogany table down to a $8 girdle - and charging them as business expenses - at a time when they were worth $5 billion.

As the details unravelled, former employees queued up to vent their rage. Their stories revealed a woman who, convinced that people were trying to cheat her, treated her staff with vindictiveness.

A People magazine story was headlined: "Greedy, Greedy, Greedy", and another carried the line "rhymes with rich" next to her picture.

In 1989 a federal judge in Manhattan ruled that Harry Helmsley, who was then 80 and in poor health, was unfit to stand trial.

Leona, though, did stand trial, and had to listen to testimony about her petty cruelties. One story had her refusing to pay a contractor struggling to bring up six children.

"Why didn't he keep his pants on?" she demanded. A former housekeeper testified that her employer had once told her:

"We don't pay taxes. Only little people pay taxes." Leona denied saying it, but after a nine-week trial she was found guilty of evading more than $1 million in taxes.

She insisted she had done nothing wrong, raging that she had been made a scapegoat because she was a woman.

There was more than a whiff of the Salem witch trials about the whole affair. Donald Trump felt moved to write to Harry Helmsley to tell him that his wife was "a disgrace to the human race" the former mayor of New York Ed Koch called her "a wicked witch", adding, "for a billionairess to be so chintzy distresses people".

But even Leona's own lawyer called her a "tough bitch", and was reduced to relying on the novel argument that staff so feared her wrath that they resorted to faking invoices to minimise the time they had to spend in her company.

Leona Helmsley was sentenced to four years in jail, and to mark her first night as a prisoner her husband ordered the lights of the Empire State Building to be turned off. After 18 months, however, she was ordered to complete her sentence with 750 hours of community service.

Unrepentant, she complained that ordinary people "gawked" at her while she wrapped presents for hospital patients and argued, successfully, that she should be allowed to take the work home.

There, she handed it over to the servants to complete - leading to her being given a further 150 hours' community service.

The daughter of a poor, Jewish-born immigrant hatter, Leona Mindy Rosenthal was born on July 4 1920 and brought up in Brooklyn, New York. Although intelligent, she dropped out of high school. She later said she had attended Hunter College, but no record of this could be found.

She claimed to have worked as a model advertising Chesterfield cigarettes under the name Leona Roberts - though her biographer, Michael Moss, was unable to turn up any advertisements in which she featured. She also married and divorced twice: first a lawyer called Leo Panzirer, with whom she had a son then a businessman, Joe Lubin. In the 1960s she became a secretary in an estate agency and by 1970 had become one of the leading estate agents in New York.

When she met the 61- year-old Harry Helmsley it was love at first sight. "I knew we were meant for each other the first minute we danced together," she recalled. "I fit right into his arms."

In 1971 he hired her as a vice-president of Brown, Harris, Stevens, a subsidiary of his fast-growing property empire, Helmsley-Spear, on a salary of $500,000. A year later they were married.

Even before her final release from prison in 1994, Leona Helmsley was busy re-establishing control of her empire and its terrorised employees. She transferred the management of key properties to a company she owned outright and moved to sell the family's interest in others.

In 1996 Irving Schneider and Alvin Schwartz, Helmsley's long-time partners and lieutenants, mounted a private law suit, accusing Leona of stripping Helmsley's property company of its choicest assets and selling them to the highest bidders. Leona emerged victorious.

On her husband's death in 1997 she inherited $1.7 billion and a property empire that still controlled much of the Manhattan skyline.

Though she appeared devastated at his death, the gossip columns were soon speculating about her love life.

In 2000, at the age of 80, she was reported to be planning a fourth canter down the aisle with Roger Watkins, a 50-year-old engineer who had worked for her husband. A few weeks later she was said to have found a new escort in Patrick Ward, who ran her empire.

The plot thickened when, in 2003, it was reported that both men were thinking of suing her for wrongful dismissal.

Watkins claimed he had been fired after rejecting her advances and Ward alleged that she had fired him after discovering that he was homosexual. "Who's next?" her lawyer, Steve Eckhaus, asked. "Michael Jackson and Bubbles the chimp?"


Hotel queen Leona Helmsley took out a full-page ad.

NEW YORK -- Hotel queen Leona Helmsley took out a full-page ad in The New York Times to berate Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein for calling his hostages 'guests' and appealing to him to let them go.

'I know something about how one is supposed to treat guests, Mr. Hussein,' said Helmsley, who is fighting a four-year sentence to federal prison for tax fraud.

'In your bizarre world where detention centers have become hotels and hostages have become guests, I can make one recommendation that I have never made in all the years I have been welcoming people: Mr. Hussein, it is time to check out,' the ad said Monday.

'In the name of humanity, and on behalf of families who fear for the lives of their loved ones, I ask that you release these hostages at once and confront this conflict of your making with the human shields you now cower behind.'

Helmsley, wife of real estate mogul Harry Helmsley, was convicted in federal court Aug. 30, 1989, on charges of cheating on millions of dollars in income taxes. She was sentenced to four years in prison and fined $7.1 million. Her lawyers are appealing.NEWLN: ------ Oregon hunters become the hunted

LA GRANDE, Ore. (UPI) -- Scientists have used radio tracking devices on wild animals for years, but now Oregon officials are using the transmitters to keep tabs on another kind of animal: human hunters.

Officials at a joint state-federal game reserve in northeastern Oregon ran a pilot program last month in which they used electronic devices to track the movements of 10 elk hunters.

Although details are still being worked out, officials hope to use the devices again in the future, perhaps even establishing a formal program to study how hunters hunt and how animals respond.

Experts hope the new information might eventually lead to better wildlife management practices.NEWLN: ------ Moose on the loose in Spokane

SPOKANE, Wash. (UPI) -- A 700-pound bull moose wandered into a Spokane neighborhood over the weekend, entertaining residents before it was tranquilized and hauled back to the mountains.

'This is the 15th moose we've had in the city this year. Two of them died,' said Washington Wildlife Department spokesman Mike Whorten. 'It's a result of habitat loss.'

One moose died after being hit by a car and the second died after being chased by dogs, he said.

The moose captured Sunday night was first spotted in the Shadle Park neighborhood about 7 p.m.

'We tried to cut it off and head him back to the river,' said resident Jeff Shoemaker. 'Then we got in the pickup to chase him away from traffic. He almost got hit a bunch of times.'

Residents eventually corralled the beast in the backyard of a home, where it stepped over a 3-foot picket fence and then dined on tomato plants and green beans for four hours before it was captured and taken to Mount Spokane.

More than 100 people eating popcorn and drinking beer gathered at the home to see the animal.

'We never had anything like this happen, and I've lived here all my life,' said Chad Vega.NEWLN: ------ Arabs confiscate Australian sailor videos

SYDNEY, Australia (UPI) -- The Australian navy is looking for a more reliable way of delivering mail to the Persian Gulf because of complaints from sailors who never received pornographic videotapes sent to them.

Defense Support Minister Gordon Bilney told Parliament Monday that the parcels appeared to have been opened by customs officials because of strict regulations concerning pornographic material.

'The House needs to understand that those Middle East countries have very strict regulations as regards the importation of pornographic material and as a consequence some parcels in the mail dispatched to our ships appear to have been opened for inspection,' Bilney said.

Australia has two frigates and a supply ship on active duty in the gulf.

Personal mail for the Australian sailors is currently being dispatched by commercial air services.

A spokesman for a Canberra adult video supermarket and mail order firm, Fantasy Lane, said Tuesday naval bases were 'some of our best clients.'


Watch the video: Flashback: Leona Helmsley goes to jail (June 2022).


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