HIGH FINANCE: Slimming for Slenderella

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One of the most successful merchandisers of charm to U.S. women is Slenderella International, whose 150 salons played soft music while vibrating tables shook excess inches off flabby matrons. Last week Slenderella itself underwent a slimming treatment. Patrols of Internal Revenue Service agents, watches carefully synchronized, swooped down on Slenderella salons in 24 cities, slapped on liens for $1,235,445 in unpaid taxes, picked up any cash handy. So swiftly did the action come that Slenderella managers and patrons were taken completely off guard. In New York City two women entered while a revenue agent was scooping up cash from the registers. They paid him $500 for treatments, thinking that he was an attendant. In Cleveland, revenuers quietly permitted the attendants to complete treatments in progress before padlocking a Slenderella salon.

Until the revenuers struck, Slenderella's fast-talking President Lawrence Mack, 40, had shown a nice talent for handling complaints. A former general manager for big Stauffer Reducing Inc., he fought off a patent infringement suit by Stauffer after he set up Slenderella with a reducing table similar to Stauffer's. He also shook off a campaign by the Better Business Bureau against his "misleading advertising," which promised that size 20s would be squeezed down to size 14s. Mack promoted Slenderella with TV and radio spots, built up sales to more than $20 million in seven years, held business conferences on his 68-ft. yacht moored near Slenderella's headquarters in Stamford, Conn.

One thing Mack did not do, said the Internal Revenue Service, was pay all his taxes, even though he withheld them from employees' salaries. He had not remitted $60,850 in withholding taxes, charged the tax collectors, or $1,042,355 in corporation, social security, and unemployment benefit taxes. Mack himself was slapped with claims for $132,240 in individual taxes. Padlocking a business in a "jeopardy assessment" is a rare step for the IRS, but the revenuers had failed to get enough tax money from Slenderella after two years of negotiations, decided to seize the assets while they were still there.