Leona Helmsley: 'The Queen of Mean'
Verdict and Beyond
Following the final arguments, which summed up each case the jury deliberated for six days to consider the defendant's guilt or innocence. Finally, on August 30 they had reached their verdict. They were all found guilty on various charges. Leona, in particular was convicted of 33 felony counts of trying to defraud the government and IRS, including mail fraud, tax evasion and filing false tax returns. The convictions were a smack in the face for the defendants, but it could have been worse. Luckily for Turco and Leona, they managed to escape being convicted for extortion, which carried an enormous prison sentence.
Towards the end of the trial, Judge Walker commenced with handing out sentencing. Hammer stated that Licarci received thirty months in prison, three years on probation and a fine of approximately $75,000 for assisting in the covering up and hiding of the invoices. Turco received a sentence of twenty-four months, with three years probation and a fine of more than $50,000 for his part in the crimes. Turco and Licarci would end up serving only several months of their sentences before being released on probation.
Eventually, Leona was handed her sentence. To her horror, she received a total of sixteen years to be served concurrently. She was also fined a little more than $7 million, most of which was to be paid back to the federal government.
Immediately following the trial, Leona appealed her case to the New York Supreme Court. Hammer stated that eventually, most of the initial counts were dropped with the exception of eight, including the false charges to Helmsleys' businesses. In the end, Leona succeeded in having her prison sentenced minimized. She ended up serving approximately eighteen months in a federal penitentiary.
Following her release, Leona made a great effort to get things back to normal. She returned to controlling the Helmsley hotels and taking care of Harry, who suffered increasingly poor health. On January 4, 1997, the "King of real estate" died at the age of eighty-seven-years old as a result of heart complications. Upon his death, he left his entire estate estimated at $1.7 billion to Leona. To date, Leona remains one of the wealthiest people in the United States.
Although the tax battle was well behind her, it did not mark the end to her court appearances. In 2002, a former employee of Leona's named Charles Bell filed suit against her, claiming she had fired him for being homosexual. Once again, Leona would be found guilty in a court of law. She was initially ordered to award Bell more than $11 million, however the sum was reduced to a little more than a half million on appeal. The most recent lawsuit had the public wondering whether there would be more to come in the future. It seemed as if Leona's enemies were never too far behind.