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April 18, 1997     Cape Gazette
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April 18, 1997
 

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14 - CAPE GAZETI, Friday, April 18- April 24, 1997 Legg found innocent of wrongdoing against Helmsley By Kerry Kester A New York jury found Jack Legg innocent of grand larceny and eight counts of falsifying business documents on Wednes- day, April 16. Legg, 42, of Re- hoboth Beach, a former pilot for the noted hotelier, Leona Helms- ley, was accused of stealing prop- erty "in excess of $50,000" from Helmsley through falsi- fying invoic- es for plane parts and equipment. Legg main- tained his in- nocence from Aug. 2, the date of his ar- LEGG rest in New York, stating that all transactions that occurred were under the di- rection of Helmsley. "I'm feeling real good," said Legg. "It's been a tough couple of weeks." Legg's trial, which began on Monday, April 7, concluded after jurors de- liberated fewer than three hours. A Manhattan, NY grand jury i n- dieted Legg on a charge of second degree grand larceny and 10 counts of first degree falsifying busiress documents from Feb. 11, 1991 through Nov. 26, 1995. Lat- er, prosecutors dropped two counts of falsifying business in- voices. "Two counts were dropped from the ori#nal indictment, basi- cally because there was a problem with the dates," said Wayne Bri- son, Manhattan District Attor- ney's office spokesman. "There was a mistake with the dates." Legg was accused of stealing $883,892.11 from Helmsley by submitting invoices for plane pans that were never actually pur- chased. "These plane parts were never purchased," said Brison. Legg denied the accusation, say- ing that one part, for example, was found still attached to the plane located in its hangar. However, he admitted that there were other facets of the case pertaining en- tirely to invoice paperwork. "The whole thing came down between her and I," said Legg. "Everything was approved by Leona. I just want to clear my nallle." Helmsley needed credit According to Lcgg, the problem arose in 1990, when she shut down Georgetown Aircraft and terminated employment for 100 people. "People didn't want to deal with Georgetown Aircraft he- cause they shut it down, and they [the New York accountants] didn't want to pay the bills." Keeping Helmsley's Boeing 727 operating, however, said Legg, was an expensive proposi- tion. Heimsley used the plane to travel around the world, said Legg, but especially to commute between her Phoenix, AZ and her Sarasota, FL homes. "It costs a million dollars a year, even if you don't operate it," said Legg of a Boeing 727. Legg said her actual costs for maintaining the aircraft varied each year. When it became apparent that she would have difficulty buying the parts she needed to keep the aircraft operating, Legg started a small company, Aircraft Compo- nent Systems, Inc., in order to pur- chase whatever the plane needed. Because it was his company, and not Helmsley's, he was able to or- der parts without problems from creditors. "It was her idea to initiate it," said Legg. "I didn't submit any- thing that was not authorized by Mrs. Helmsley." Legg said he worked for Helmsley for 12 years, and of her employees, only her se- curity chief had worked for her longer than that - with 22 years in before leaving the job. Legg's problem began shortly after Ron Bellesteri was hired to replace Helmsley's long-time se- curity chief. "He's the one who initiated things," said Legg. "He'd only been there for a month." In fact, said Legg, when Bellesteri testified in court, he didn't even know the correct name of the company. Legg cooperated When Legg learned that there was a warrant for his arrest, know- ing he was innocent, he immedi- ately tried to cooperate with the New York police and district at- torney's office, he said. He con- tacted the Delaware State Police, who worked with the New York police to arrange for I..egg to turn himself in on Aug. 2. "When we got there, I got processed," he said. Contrary to what be had been told before turn- ing himself in, he was held with- out bail being set while police said they were waiting for his finger prints to clear. Legg said he was not only willing to cooperate with the authorities, but he was also ea- ger to do so. He tried to taik to de- tectives and people from the dis- trict attorney's office, to explain the circumstances, but no one, said Legg, seemed interested. "None of them wanted to talk," said Legg. 'qhey [the district at- torney's office] told the detectives they couldn't talk." The morning of Aug. 3 he ap- peared before a judge, who denied the district attorney's request that Legg's bail he set at $100,000. In- stead, Judge Brenda Soloff set bail for $50,000, with $5,000 in cash and the remainder on signature. As the months wore on, Legg traveled many times between the two states. "After they did all this stuff, they wanted to plea bar- gain," said Legg. "We never agreed on a plea bargain." "The part of property being found or not found...had nothing to do with it," said Brison, ex- phining the position of the prose- cution. "The fact is that he falsi- fied business records. He submit- ted fake invoices. These parts GAGLIONE were never purchased. "The defense and his lawyer never disputed that the invoices were fake and the parts were not purchased. The defense was that Leona told him to do that." l..egg was represented in court by Larry Dubin of Goldherger and Dubin in New York. "The defense was that everything was approved by Leona," said Legg. During his testimony, said I.egg, he told Dis- trict Attorney Polly Greenberg of the special prosecutions bureau that he wanted Helmsley to testify. "The D.A. didn't even subpoena her," said Legg. "She did not tes- tify." Legg said that one of the things revealed during his trial was that the same month as he was arrested, Helmsley's company submitted a claim for the $883,892 Legg was accused of stealing, and the insurance compa- ny paid the claim. "I just want to thank family and friends for sticking by through this whole thing," said Legg. EVANS FRASER GALLAGHER GROCE LEWIS MAHER MENDEZ MYERS OSTROSKI - SMITH SYKES State police honor meritorious troopers Delaware State Police named Cpl. James Fraley, 36, of Troop 3 as the Trooper of the Year during a special awards ceremony held on Thursday, April 10. Police honored more than 60 other troopers for their outstanding service, including sever- al officers from Troop 7. The troopers were honored for their contributions to preventing and solving crime in their communities, to the Delaware State Police and to the Department of Public Safety. Fraley's accomplishments in 1996 included handling 172 cases, solving 163 cases, mak- ing 505 criminal arrests, obtaining 127 con- fessions, executing 20 search warrants and re- covering $37,148 in stolen property. This was his second recognition as Delaware's State Trooper of the Year. He earned the honor in 1988 as well. "Detective Fraley is a self-motivated inves- tigator who is a pleasure to supervise," said Capt. David Cox, commander at Troop 3. "His work ethic is outstanding, always will- ing to do whatever job is necessary to see an investigation to a successful conclusion, be it his case or another detective's." Receiving the second highest honor, the Su- perintendent's Citation, was Trooper First Class OF'C) $.S. Evans, Jr., who left Troop 7 and is now assigned to Troop 4. Evans was commended for apprehending two suspects during a burglary in progress at Hickman's package store on Route 26 near Clarksville. Receiving the Lifesaving Award were Sgt. Dawnn Sykes, Cpl. Kevin Smith, Cpl. Joe Myers, Trooper Mark Craglione, Cpl. Chuck Groce, and TFC Anthony Mendez. Sykes, Smith, Myers and Ga#ione saved a woman's life after she suddenly went into cardiac arrest while at the troop. Smith was also commended when, along with Mendez and Groce, he helped revive a middle-aged man who went into cardiac ar- rest following a fight in Bay City Mobile Home Park. TFC Doris Fraser earned an exceptional performance award for her work in appre- heading a burglar. While on patrol, Fraser observed a vehicle with burglary tools in it and obtained a confession from the suspect. The apprehension cleared an investigation on numerous Cape Re#on burglaries. Trooper Jeff Levere, who is now working at" Troop 3, earned an exceptional performance award for arresting a suspect who endangered others in a public place. The suspect, whose employment at Ames had been terminated, was irate and threatening at the store, then doused Levere with fighter fluid before his ar- rest. Cpl. Tim Gallagher, now assigned to Troop 4, received an exceptional performance award from an incident involving kidnapping and unlawful sexual intercourse. In the case with no leads, Gallagher, through the course of his investigation, identified a suspect, se- cured a search warrant and obtained a confes- sion. Detectives Mark Ostroski and Mike Maher were honored with exceptional performance awards for their investigation on a stalking/threatening case in the Cape Re#on. Ostroski and Maher arrested the suspect, who also claimed to be the victim, in the case in- volving a school bus in the Cape Henlopen School District. Cpl. Preston Lewis, Delaware State Police spokesman whose primary responsibility is for Sussex County, earned an exceptional performance award for his work with Camp Barnes, which offers drug awareness and pre- vention services to children. Lewis was in- strumental in raising $35,000 in 1996 through his efforts with a stock car race.