April 15 is most famously the deadline for filing income taxes, so it is quite fitting that prisoner number 15113-054 entered the federal prison in Lexington, Kentucky, on April 15, 1992, having been convicted of one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, three counts of tax evasion, three counts of filing false personal tax returns, sixteen counts of assisting in the filing of false corporate and partnership tax returns, and ten counts of mail fraud. Her famous excuse for this bit of naughtiness was “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.”
Known affectionately as the “Queen of Mean,” Leona Helmsley started her amazing career of acquiring everything she laid her eyes on back in the mid60’s, soon aided and abetted by Harry Helmsley, after they disposed of his wife in 1972. Their real estate empire included the Park Lane Hotel, the Empire State Building, Helmsley Palace and a collection of condos throughout Manhattan.
In 1983 the Helmsleys bought a 21-room mansion weekend retreat in Greenwich, Connecticut, for $11 million. Finding it a tad shabby for their tastes, they had it remodeled for another $8 million, adding among other homey touches a million-dollar dance floor and a mahogany card table. When they tried to stiff the contractors, they were sued for non-payment. The Helmsleys eventually paid up, but it was revealed that most of the work was illegally billed to their hotels as business expenses.
A federal criminal investigation followed, and they were indicted on several tax-related charges, as well as extortion. Harry called in sick, and Leona took the fall alone.
April 15 would be the ideal day for another real estate nabob to make public his tax returns. Don’t hold your breath.