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Former Helmsley engineer says Leona wouldn't pay bills

By WILLIAM M. REILLY

NEW YORK -- A former engineer for the Helmsley real estate empire testified at Leona Helmsley's tax evasion trial that the hotel queen refused to pay a contractor for building a barbecue at the Helmsleys' Greenwich, Conn., mansion.

And, Jeremiah McCarthy testified Wednesday, Mrs. Helmsley was not impressed when told that the contractor was the father of six children and needed the money.

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'She said, 'Why didn't he keep his pants on? He wouldn't have so many problems,'' McCarthy told a Manhattan courtroom.

'She said she wasn't going to pay $13,000 for a barbecue,' McCarthy testified. 'She was ranting and screaming and calling me an idiot.'

Mrs. Helmsley, a self-described 'hotel queen,' is named in a 47-count federal tax indictment with two former business associates, Frank Turco, 45, of Lutz, Fla., and Joseph Licari, 51, of Oyster Bay Cove, N.Y.

Her trial was scheduled to resume Thursday at U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

McCarthy testified Wednesday that he arranged for a contractor friend he identified only as 'Brennan' to do a repair job and build a barbecue at the Helmsleys' mansion.

He said Brennan gave him a bill for $13,000 and he passed it to Mrs. Helmsley at her office at the Helmsley Palace Hotel in Manhattan.

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McCarthy said, 'I pleaded with her. I told her (Brennan) has six kids and needed the money.

He said he later went to see Harry Helmsley who remembered Brennan as a 'nice Irish guy with a brogue,' and ordered a $10,000 check to be drawn.

When Mrs. Helmsley objected, he said, Helmsley told him, 'give her the check, get her off your back, and I'll give it back to you.'

McCarthy said he didn't know from what account the money was drawn.

McCarthy also testified that Helmsley called him an obscene name when he refused to sign phony invoices.

'You're not my partner. You don't tell me how to spend my money. You sign what you're told to sign,' McCarthy testified.

Helmsley, 69, wearing a red and white striped summer dress, showed no emotion as McCarthy described her temper tantrums.

Mrs. Helmsley, along with her husband, billionaire real estate tycoon Harry Helmsley, 80, is accused of defrauding the government of millions of dollars in taxes and submitting false billings for $4 million worth of house renovations at their Connecticut estate.

Harry Helmsley was severed from the trial because of a series of strokes that left his memory impaired.

During testimony Wednesday, McCarthy, of Kennett Square, Pa., a former senior vice president and director of engineering for Helmsley-Spear Inc., said that in 1984 Turco, an aide to the Helmsleys, sent him 'a stack of phony invoices' for him to approve.

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'I said I wouldn't do it.'

He said Turco told him, 'She's going to be furious -- you're going to be gone.'

Leona Helmsley then called him in and cursed him out, he said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney James DeVita asked him if he ever signed the invoices.

'No sir, I didn't,' McCarthy replied.

McCarthy said he left Helmsley-Spear in September 1985. He said Helmsley fired him, but 'she insisted I quit,' and in the aftermath, Harry Helmsley gave him $75,000 to settle his contract.

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