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

Leona Helmsley

Leona Helmsley

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.

— Scott McCabe


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