August 30, 1989: Leona Helmsley Convicted Of Conspiracy To Defraud U.S., Tax Evasion

 Known as the “Queen of Mean,” Helmsley's hostile personality, temper and greed reportedly alienated the jurors in her trial. 

By Gina Tron

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On August 30, 1989, billionaire real estate investor Leona Helmsley was convicted of one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and three counts of tax evasion, among other financial crimes. Known as the “Queen of Mean,” her hostile personality, temper and greed reportedly alienated the jurors in her trial.  Helmsley married Harry Helmsley in 1972, who owned $5 billion worth of real estate, including the Empire State Building.

In 1983, Leona and her husband bought an $11 million mansion in Greenwich, Connecticut. They remodelled the home, adding a $1 million dollar dance floor and other lavish additions, but they didn't pay the workers. The contractors sued the couple for $8 million and revealed that the Helmsleys billed most of their work illegally as business expenses. The contractors also sent numerous falsified invoices that they had obtained to the New York Post. The story led to a federal criminal investigation. Because Helmsley’s husband was struggling with severe health problems, Leona faced the charges solo.

One of the witnesses at the sensational trial, a former housekeeper, testified that Leona once told her, "We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes." The court decided she had evaded more than $4 million in income taxes. Leona Helmsley served 18 months in a federal prison in Connecticut.

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