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HELMSLEY MAY PUT HER PAST TO WORK - AS MAID

If a judge books a cell for Leona Helmsley at the local women's prison, the one-time queen of luxury hotels may have to put her background to work - as a prison maid.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa rejected a motion from Helmsley's lawyers Wednesday to set aside or reduce her four-year prison sentence for evading $1.7 million in income taxes.Helmsley collapsed after the hearing in New York and was hospitalized for observation. She suffered severe high blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat and remained hospitalized early Thursday, said Dr. R.A. Rees Pritchett.

Griesa said she would enter prison April 15 - tax day - but didn't say where. A courthouse source who spoke on condition of anonymity said she had been assigned to Lexington's Federal Medical Center for prisoners.

Helmsley, 71, had begged Griesa for mercy, saying that to separate her from her sickly 83-year-old husband, Harry, would kill them both.

"He has nobody in the world," she sobbed. "All he's got is me."

Helmsley, who billed herself as the queen of her husband's hotels, helped him run a real estate empire worth billions of dollars. It includes the Helmsley Palace in New York and several other hotels and buildings.

Before going to the hospital, Helmsley said she remained confident she would win a new trial.

But if she winds up at the Lexington prison, she could receive a regular work assignment, and based on her background, it could be as a maid, said Warden Margaret C. Hambrick.

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Helmsley's palace?

The prosecution has sought Leona Helmsley's surrender to a federal prison hospital in Lexington, Ky. Shown is a typical ward at the prison.

Inmates have choice of uniform: white blouse and black shirt, or blue pants and blue skirt.

*Showers: individual stalls with curtains, Toliet facilities: Three open stalls, one sink.

Prison Life: Daily prison life is determined by the inmate's work assignment. After seven- or eight-hour work assignment is completed, inmate is entitled to recreation time, which can include exercies, schooling, religious services and special programs such as lectures. The prison has a literacy requirement of a high school education. An inmate must take classes to meet this requirement if necessary.

Sources: Federal Correctional Institute, Ky.: WHAS-TV, Louisville, Ky; AP research