Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Leona Helmsley: 'The Queen of Mean'

The United States of America v. Helmsley, Part II

It appeared that the Helmsleys, Leona in particular, had indeed gone to extreme lengths to hide their extra expenditures accumulated from work done at their estate. Apparently, Leona instructed Turco and Licarci to assist her. They were believed to have allegedly combined invoices, changed them and created false ones to cover up the work from the estate, which were then sent to Helmsley subsidiaries to be figured in with the companies' business expenses.

Moreover, Turco purportedly ensured the payment of the invoices through the subsidiaries. However, when the subsidiaries costs began to skyrocket due to the Helmsleys' house expenditures, they had to find a way to cut down on costs for other things. Thus, it is alleged that he resorted to extortion, under pressure from Leona, in an effort to cut corners. It was believed that he threatened hotel employees with their jobs if they did not try and get goods and supplies for discount or for free. It is also suspected that he accepted kickbacks, or a percentage of the vendors and contractors commissions that supplied the Helmsley subsidiaries, in order to make extra money. Of course, nothing was done without Leona's express approval and she allegedly orchestrated and profited from all the transactions.

Leona Helmsley & attorney Eckhaus going into court
Leona Helmsley & attorney Eckhaus going into court

DeVita had successfully painted a picture to the jury detailing the defendants transgressions. Finally, on August 15, the prosecution rested its case against the defense. According to Hammer, DeVita had been highly effective at proving his claims against Leona, Turco and Licarci. Leona's legal team readied themselves to refute DeVita's arguments.

When Feffer approached the jury he spoke to them of a much different scenario than the one DeVita suggested. He claimed that Leona had no intent of defrauding the government and thus, there was no conspiracy to do so. He further claimed that there was no evidence of extortion. Moreover, Feffer explained to the jury that because the Helmsleys often worked at their estate, it was not unfair to write off a large majority of the remodeling and redecoration costs of the house as business expenses.

Concerning the falsified invoices, Feffer did not deny their existence or legitimacy but he did believe they were not the doing of Leona. In fact, he stated she knew nothing of the invoices that had been altered or changed and billed to other Helmsley subsidiaries. Instead, Feffer contended that Turco, Licarci and other Helmsley employees were responsible for falsifying the invoices. He suggested that they were consistently bombarded with bills to be paid to vendors and contractors. They allegedly knew that Leona didn't want the bills to be paid because of the supposed poor quality of work and services. However, Feffer contended that they altered the invoices and sent them to other Helmsley subsidiaries to be handled anyways. They allegedly did it because they wanted to ensure the people were paid and they didn't want Leona to know about it. Although it was a weak argument, it was all that the defense had.

Benfante and Brodsky, Turco and Licarci's lawyers basically refuted Feffer's argument against their clients. They stated that their clients were innocent of the offences attributed to them. They further suggested that if anything did happen that was questionable, they were merely acting out orders given by Harry and Leona. Finally, on August 21, the defense rested its case.


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