On this day in 1993, the now-infamous madam-to-the-stars Heidi Fleiss is arrested as part of a sting operation run by the Los Angeles Police and Beverly Hills Police Departments and the U.S. Justice Department.
In the 1980s, Fleiss’ then-boyfriend introduced her to the leading Beverly Hills madam Elizabeth (Alex) Adams, who, according to Fleiss, taught her the tricks of the trade. Before long, Fleiss started a competing business, and when Adams was arrested in 1988, Fleiss took her spot as the leading provider of expensive prostitutes in Hollywood. As her business grew, she enjoyed the perks of celebrity, even as her rising profile attracted the attention of local authorities. On June 9, 1993, after she sent four of her employees (along with a quantity of cocaine) to fulfill an arrangement made with three “clients” (actually undercover agents), the 27-year-old Fleiss was arrested and charged with pandering, pimping and narcotics possession.
Fleiss’ trial, during which she refused to name any of her agency’s high-profile clients (though testimony did reveal at least one of them, the actor Charlie Sheen), was the talk of Hollywood. She pleaded not guilty to all the charges, and her lawyers argued that the authorities had entrapped her. In December 1994, a California grand jury found Fleiss guilty on three of five pandering counts and not guilty on the narcotics charge; she was sentenced her to three years in prison and ordered to pay a $1,500 fine. Fleiss also went on trial before a federal grand jury on charges of conspiracy, money laundering and tax evasion. She was convicted in August 1995 on eight of the 14 counts and sentenced to 37 months in prison.
All told, Fleiss served three years in prison, and was released in the fall of 1999. She later began a two-year relationship with the actor Tom Sizemore, star of films such as Heat, Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down. In 2003, Fleiss filed charges against Sizemore for violent abuse; he was convicted that August on six of 16 counts, including abuse, threat, harassment and vandalism. His initial sentence of six months in jail was eventually reduced to 90 days, plus mandatory drug rehab and domestic-violence and anger-management counseling.
Fleiss, who has also struggled with drug abuse, has attempted to profit from her infamy by authoring several non-fiction books, including Pandering (2003). In early 2008, Fleiss opened a Laundromat called Dirty Laundry in Pahrump, Nevada; she also announced plans to open a brothel catering to female customers.
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