NEW YORK -- Hotel queen Leona Helmsley collapsed and was hospitalized Wednesday after a federal judge told her she probably would begin a four-year prison sentence within a month.
After her sobbing pleas went unheaded in Manhattan's federal court, Helmsley was taken to New York Hospital's cardiac-care unit, where officials said she was admitted with cardiac arrhythmia and severe hypertension.
The terms refer to an irregular heartbeat and high blood pressure.
Dr. R.A. Rees Pritchett, Helmsley's physician, was expected to issue further information Thursday.
U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Griesa earlier told Helmsley, 71, dubbed by some the 'Queen of Mean' and the 'Wicked Witch of the West' for her reputation as a tough taskmaster over hotel employees, to be ready to report to a federal prison on April 15.
Helmsley was convicted in 1989, for cheating on her taxes.
The four-year sentence handed Helmsley, with three years probation and 750 hours of community service and a massive fine, was little changed from the original sentence Helmsley received before a federal appeals court combined some of the 17 counts in her conviction and ordered her resentenced.
The judge was unswayed by Helmsley's tearful pleas that she must stay free to care for her ailing husband.
Helmsley's voice was wracked by sobs as she tried to convince Griesa that she couldn't go to prison because she must look after Harry Helmsley, the 83-year-old real estate magnate who was severed from her case because of poor health.
'He has nobody in this world who can care for him,' she said. 'He has no family -- all he has got is me.'
Griesa called Helmsley's actions 'deliberate and fradulent.'
But the judge allowed Helmsley to stay free on bail and said he would rule on a defense motion for a new trial by the end of the month.
After the sentencing, the shaken Helmsley said, 'I feel confident when he reads the trial motion ...,' before her voice trailed off.
Helmsley's collapse came after leaving court.
She was convicted by a federal jury of defrauding the government of millions of dollars in taxes and submitting false billings for more than $3 million worth of house renovations at their Connecticut estate.
At her trial, the government claimed she charged everything from a $12.99 girdle to a $10,000 bust of her dead son to business accounts.
Her husband, whose business controls least 45 buildings in Manhattan alone, including the Empire State Building, also was indicted in the case but was ruled incompetent to stand trial because of health problems. He was not present in court.
Wednesday, Griesa turned a stone ear to attorney Sandor Frankel, who spent the better part of two hours pleading with the judge for an alternative sentence.
Frankel told the judge that in upholding the prison term he would be turning 'a tax evasion case into a capital offense.'
The judge said he was trying to balance 'personal, individual circumstance and enforce the law.'
'There is a community. There is a nation. The interests of the other taxpayers of this nation have to be considered, too,' he said.
'Her husband's ill-health, which prevented him from being retried, should not also preclude her from serving her sentence, Griesa said. 'I believe that is going too far.'
The judge also told Helmsley to put aside her fears of a prison facility and inmate to which he attributed all her appeals, saying, 'They've gone wrong but they're still human beings ...It is possible to go into prison and do some good there.'
Helmsley's main defense attorney, Alan Dershowitz, told Griesa last week that she suffered from 'uncontrollable' high blood pressure, coronary heart disease and the effects of a stroke.
At that hearing, the judge advised Helmsley to 'get realistic' about serving time and mentioned the federal prison at Lexington, Ky., which he said 'has very fine (medical) facilities.'
Leona Helmsley was a successful real estate broker when she met her husband-to-be, a millionaire realtor and hotelier, then in his 50s. He divorced his wife and married Leona, who became active in her husband's business empire, heading his national hotel corporation.
Her insistence on perfection and absolute loyalty in her employees gained her a tough reputation. She was said to reign from her headquarters in the Helmsley Palace Hotel in New York as an absolute monarch, immune to criticism or suggestion.
At her trial, a parade of witnesses, including fired employees, described Helmsley as a tough, stingy taskmaster with a tongue like a rapier.
Even her own attorney told the jury that people sometimes regarded her as a 'tough bitch.'