Leona Helmsley: Even the Big People Can’t Escape Death and Taxes

by J-Stacknik

Leona Helmsley is buried alongside her late husband, Harry, in a $1.4 million mausoleum in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Westchester County, New York.

Leona Helmsley is famous for two things, or at least two things that people will remember her for: she was the “queen of mean” and for her now infamous quote “We (the rich or just the Helmsley’s) don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes”

Helmsley was already established in real estate in New York city when she met billionaire Harry Helmsley whom she married in 1972. She helped Harry run his $5 billion empire that included managing the Empire State Building as well as hotel chains and other properties. They led a lavish life travelling the globe in their 100-seat jet with a bedroom suite. They had a beautiful nine room penthouse suite overlooking Central Park an $8 million estate in Connecticut, a condo in Palm Beach; and a mountaintop hideaway near Phoenix.

With all of this luxury she was notoriously cheap. She nickel-and-dimed merchants on personal purchases, stiffed contractors and terrorized her employees. She was made president of Helmsley Hotels in 1980. She became the poster girl for all of the advertising for the hotels, dressed in luxurious gowns and tiaras, advertising that the Palace Hotel in New York was the only hotel in the world “where the Queen stands guard.”

In 1988 her charmed life came to an end when she and Harry were hit with tax-evasion charges. Because of Harry’s deteriorating health he was deemed unfit to stand trial. After an eight week trial, Leona was convicted of evading $1.2 million in federal taxes by billing Helmsley businesses for personal expenses ranging from underwear to $3 million worth of renovations to their estate in Connecticut. She initially received a sentence of 16 years, but was required to serve only 19 months in prison and two months under house arrest.

During the trial a former housekeeper testified that she had overheard Helmsley say: “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.” Helmsley denied this but the title “queen of mean” was sealed and followed her for the rest of her life.

Helmsley died of congestive heart failure at the age of 87, at her estate in Connecticut. She was entombed next to Harry Helmsley in a mausoleum constructed for $1.4 million and set on 3/4 acres in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Westchester County, New York.

Read more:

Leona Helmsley | Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

‘Queen of Mean’ Leona Helmsley dies | MSNBC.com

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