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IRS Seizes Sammy Davis Items Stored in Burbank

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A Hollywood man’s discovery that a storage locker had been rented in his name, without his knowledge, uncovered show business memorabilia that may have been hidden from tax collectors by the family of the late entertainer Sammy Davis Jr., authorities said Tuesday.

The Internal Revenue Service said Tuesday that it has seized the material, including a trumpet, an antique record player and a jukebox with records that include Davis’ hit “The Candy Man.” It is being held, Burbank police said, pending an investigation to determine whether it was hidden in a Burbank locker to avoid more than $5 million in tax liens against the singer’s estate.

Davis’ widow, Altovise, could not be reached for comment, but Burbank police said she denied any knowledge of the stored items.

Burbank police said the locker rental was arranged by an employee of Altovise Davis in the name of a 28-year-old Hollywood man, Matias Horenczyk, whose driver’s license was recently stolen. When Horenczyk received a $365 bill for the storage space, he complained to the manager of the business that “he had never rented a storage unit from him,” Burbank Police Sgt. Don Goldberg said.

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Realizing that the renter had used Horenczyk’s stolen identification, the manager alerted police, fearing the locker contained illegal drugs or chemicals.

The search Monday instead uncovered the Davis possessions, including clothing, documents and pictures of the singer and his widow, Goldberg said. He did not know the value of the items.

Police said the 18-by-22-foot locker was rented Oct. 8, two weeks after a court-ordered auction of Davis’ memorabilia and other possessions in Los Angeles. The man renting the locker made the initial payment in cash and “if they had continued making payments, conceivably this never would have happened,” Goldberg said.

Davis died of throat cancer in May, 1990, leaving millions of dollars in debts to the IRS. With interest and penalties, “the lien is somewhere in the neighborhood of $5.7 million,” IRS spokesman Robert Giannangeli said Tuesday.

Davis’ 11,000-square-foot Beverly Hills mansion is being sold for just over $2.7 million, with escrow scheduled to close in two weeks, but there will be little money left over to reduce the IRS debt because mortgages on the property total nearly $2.2 million, according to the real estate agent handling the sale.

“I don’t know if the IRS is going to get much of anything,” said Elaine Hunt of Malibu-based Spinello Realty.

Burbank police said that a man who worked for Davis’ widow told officers that he assisted “in hiding the remaining property” because “the IRS was attempting to seize” all of Davis’ possessions.

The employee said a friend, whom he refused to name, actually rented the storage area, according to Goldberg.

James Key, the manager of A-1 Self Storage Inc., said the man used Horenczyk’s driver’s license as identification, but apparently gave the wrong Social Security and telephone numbers. Key said that he noticed nothing unusual about the man who rented the unit, but that he was not surprised by Monday’s find.

“You never can tell what someone is going to put in storage facilities,” he said.

Burbank police quickly turned the case over to the IRS, Goldberg said, adding that “at this point we are not going to pursue any criminal investigation. . . . We don’t anticipate any arrests.”

About 800 people attended the Sept. 22 sale at the Butterfield & Butterfield auction house of more than 500 of Davis’ belongings, which brought in $439,000 for back taxes and other debts. A pair of Davis’ tap shoes sold for $11,000, and a collection of 10 canes brought $7,150.

IRS spokesman Giannangeli said seizure of possessions is “the last resort” but “if there’s an outstanding liability, we will take whatever action we have to to satisfy that.”


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