Fleiss jailed for 3 years for sex profits and tax fraud

The Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison yesterday for cheating on her taxes, laundering call-girl profits and conspiring to hide her crimes. Fleiss, 30, told the judge before sentencing that she was remorseful. Her defence lawyers had asked that she be given an 18-month sentence at a boot-camp style facility.

Fleiss will serve her sentence in a minimum-security prison in Pleasanton. The judge also fined Fleiss $400 (pounds 250), and ordered that she serve three years probation and 300 hours of community service, and attend a substance- abuse programme.

One of Fleiss's sisters cried during sentencing, but Fleiss and her father, Dr Paul Fleiss, remained stoical. Her father, a pediatrician, served one day in prison and paid a $50,000 fine for helping his daughter hide the call-girl profits.

"When you are released from custody, hopefully you'll do many of the things you've dreamed about," District Judge Consuelo Marshall told Fleiss. "I believe you'll be a positive role model for other young women just by the experiences you've had."

Earlier, Fleiss made an emotional address to the judge: "I wish I had the words to tell you how very sorry I am. I'm sorry for the trouble I've caused you, the trouble I've caused [the prosecution] and the court, and my family, and my father and my sister. I'm so sorry. I'm a different person now."

The judge heard testimony yesterday from a clinical psychologist at University of California, Los Angeles, who said Fleiss' mental and psychological disorders made her vulnerable to coercive relationships which led to become a madam. "This is a person with a personality disorder, not a sociopath," Nancy Kaser-Boyd said.

Fleiss's defence lawyers had said that she ran a "dating service," not a prostitution ring, that her taxes were accurate, and that she may have deserved a refund for over reporting her income. They argued that she was the victim of gender-based discrimination, since men are seldom seriously prosecuted for soliciting the services of prostitutes.

Fleiss was convicted in 1995 on eight counts of conspiracy, income-tax evasion and money laundering. The prosecution said that she laundered at least $300,000 in income from her sex business through family bank accounts and a $1.6m Beverly Hills estate once owned by actor Michael Douglas.

Prostitutes recounted being sent around the world to clients, sometimes earning $10,000 for a single assignment. Several clients described how they would call Fleiss to arrange for sex, on the understanding that there was a money-back guarantee. Among them was actor Charlie Sheen, who spent at least $53,000 in 1992.

The names of several other wealthy clients surfaced in the testimony, including Sidney Shlenker, former owner of the Denver Nuggets basketball team; Kerry Packer, one of Australia's wealthiest businessmen; real-estate heir Bob Crow; and Mexican tycoon Manuel Santos.

Fleiss had been free on bail while awaiting sentencing on the federal charges. She was ordered to undergo 90 days of drug treatment last October after she admitted violating her bail by taking methamphetamines. She completed the program early and was ordered back to jail until sentencing.