A Look Inside the Uptown Park House Leslie Tyler Fink May Have To Turn Over to the Feds

Will the rumored reality TV show featuring Leslie Tyler Fink ever reach the airwaves? Or are these listing pics the best view you’ll ever get of the house the “lifestyle expert” and her husband (pictured at left) own in a gated subdivision just west of Uptown Park, and which the U.S. Attorney’s office has identified as “property involved in, or traceable to, money laundering”? Leslie and Randy Fink bought the the 4,096-sq.-ft. home at 5 Wynden Oaks Dr. 2 years ago for $740,000 in cash, but the entire amount (plus an additional $8,980 to cover closing costs) was wired in for the closing courtesy of Leslie’s pal Jonathan Barnes — as a gift, the Chronicle‘s Tom Fowler reported last week. How generous! Sadly, Barnes — who worked as a marine chartering manager at Houston Refining (now part of LyondellBasell), was indicted late last year along with two oil traders for his involvement in a multi-million-dollar kickback scheme. According to the Feds, Barnes’s thoughtful house gift came from funds “traceable to . . . unlawful activity,” and the ill-gotten property, which is named as the plaintiff in a complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney’s office, is therefore subject to forfeiture if Barnes is convicted. Isn”t this exactly the kind of stuff great reality TV shows are built from?

“Drama right?! . . . This is going to be one of the episodes for the show,” the apparently unflappable Fink — who identifies herself as “princess of the modern Houstonian socialites” on one of her websites — declared last week in an email she sent to CultureMap’s Shelby Hodge. Can’t wait to see footage of the parties!


The home Barnes bought for the Finks was built in 1998 as part of Wynden Oaks Estates, a gated development by Charles Martin Custom Homes. It features 3 or 4 bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths on a 5,979-sq.-ft. lot. These photos show the property as it appeared before the Finks took possession of it in January of 2009:

Where did all the moolah to pay for this little Uptown pied-à-terre come from? Barnes, who was in charge of negotiating shipping charges for his company, had Houston Refining pay vastly inflated fees to have oil transferred here from Venezuela — as much as $80 million above market prices over his tenure at the company, according to the indictment unsealed last week. The companies benefiting from the overcharges then reportedly wired back to Barnes a hefty portion of their proceeds.

After he was notified of the investigation last summer, Barnes agreed to cooperate with authorities. He later fled the country with a passport he obtained under false pretenses, but was arrested with a stash of cash upon his return, according to court documents. In November and December, he helped the feds out by secretly recording conversations — one of them over lunch at Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House in the Galleria — with two indicted co-conspirators, Clyde Meltzer and Bernard Langley.

With his loot, Barnes bought several homes, a few garage-fulls of automobiles (including a 1957 Cadillac Brougham once owned by Frank Sinatra, and which came with a matching makeup compact), and a number of pieces of expensive jewelry. According to Hodge, Barnes acted as Fink’s “personal Daddy Warbucks,” providing funding for her RSVPSocial website, among other things. But that website does not appear to be listed in the indictment. Originally dubbed RSVP713, the site was promoted at its launch with a billboard at San Felipe and 610 that featured large photos of Fink, correspondent Nicole Brende, and socialite Carolyn Farb. Fink has gone on to promote her own line of cosmetics, under the name “Leslie Tyler.”

Fowler identifies several items mentioned in the indictment as gifts Barnes gave to Fink, and which she may already have been required to surrender: several pieces of jewelry and a white 2009 Bentley. As Fink bragged in an October 2009 blog post on the RSVP713 website that’s since been taken down (but was quoted in a Hair Balls column that gently discussed Fink’s merits as a society and fashion columnist), the choice of color was her own:

“Darlings…White has been my lucky… actually very lucky color…which was the main reason I chose my new cars to be white; both my Bentley and Range Rover…

In another post quoted in Hair Balls, Fink talks about accessorizing with her “signature piece and personal favorite classic canary diamond cuff and princess cut solitaire from Valobra Jewelers! To die for!!!” Well, not really: Fowler says that according to his sources, both of those expensive pieces of jewelry were gifts from Barnes too.

Where are those little accessories now? Her attorney tells Fowler Fink has already “returned any property that has been requested” and that she had no reason to suspect Barnes was engaged in criminal activity.

How did Fink keep coming up with these gifts? Last April, she revealed the secret of her good fortune:

Houston… ask and you shall receive! That’s my fortay [sic] Baby!

Photos: HAR (5 Wynden Oaks Dr.); RSVPSocial (Randy and Leslie Tyler Fink)

22 Comment

  • this is the standard in uptown though, no?

    nothing worse than “socialites” with horrible fashion taste though. this is common in houston from the pics i see in the papers, nobody knows how to spend their money wisely in thhis town it seems.

  • Exactly what did she do to earn these ‘gifts’??

  • Good luck is her fortay.

  • Not sure where to begin really… this sort of sorted stuff makes for limited interest reading along “schadenfreude” lines. But for me the question is this: Is the behavior exhibited by the Finks indicative of the vapid and sanctimonious segment of “high society” in which they live and seemingly thrive or are they highly motivated participants of conspicuous consumption?

    Well, both really… and more (terribly shallow comes to mind).

    They’d be a shoe-in for the unwatchable “Housewives of… “ series.

  • What passes for “high-society” is pretty sad.

  • This Fink Faced Funk is an embarrassment to Houston.

    PLEASE do not give this woman any airtime.

  • Sorry ….By my standards that house is a lot about nothing.

  • She will be wearing cuffs alright…. not made of diamonds, but of cold hard metal.

  • How does she live with only 2 1/2 baths?

  • What the big deal?
    Isn’t dirty double dealing how most of that clique gets all their fabulous stuff?
    These two must’ve pissed someone off.

  • Ha, the value of her cars was probably close to equal that of her home. Isn’t that more of a Dallas trait?

  • As a friend likes to say, there are two two types of society types. Old Guard and In-Need-Of-Right-Guard. In-Need-Of-Right-Guard rarely becomes Old Guard but in Houston often the Old Guard is also In-Need-Of-Right-Guard.

    Dreadful house. But perfect for a dreadful In-Need-Of-Right-Guard wannabe.

  • Real high society would never run a website. Period.

  • The A crowd only exists in the minds of the B crowd.

  • From LaughingOutLoud:
    The A crowd only exists in the minds of the B crowd.

    In Houston, the A crowd is the B crowd.

  • She has such lovely blonde hair – can’t imagine why she dyes the roots black.

  • She looks like a smiling MOON PIE….. maybe she will soon go BYE BYE….. he he

  • We see women all day selling themselves for money…so nothing new there.

    But how horrible is it to share your wife with another man for a mere house and car. Either he has a very low value for Leslie or he is just her pimp.

  • Any Onion News Network fans around?
    Doesn’t she look like the “Brooke Alvarez, TV newsperson” character on Onion News Network?

  • Are they divorce?

  • In this day and age we should all take a hard look at we define as success and those we see in the public eye as our “leaders”. Money and the idea of wealth as the ideal to aspire towards is an empty goal to set forth for your child. I would have been much happier if my parents had focused on letting me discover the world through my own eyes, instead of their eyes. It was painfully obvious when I was a kid that our world is a lot of fantasy, one that had gotten out of control long ago. I witnessed my father develop a drinking problem to excuse his violence towards his homosexual son. The years passed as I watched adults like the Finks hold themselves up as “ideal” or “hard” working, when in fact they are criminals who found a way to skim money from a system that is made up of play money anyway, so in their minds I am sure they assume no harm is done. I want everyone to know every time you choose to create obstacles for one person while creating short cuts for you and you alone, well that is why my mother and I had no where to go when dad got violent. The domestic violence shelters were and are more like poorly funded homeless shelters that offer little help, but more than the police do……..instead of chasing down speeding cars or worrying who broke in to any McMansion in whatever faux rich neighborhood, why don’t they at least arrest the guys as they leave the bars next to the chemical plants? Why don’t they charge a man with assault instead of asking the wife or kids if they want to press charges? Why doesn’t anyone care about issues like this? Well, it is easy, they see first hand women like Mrs. Fink, Farb, Wyatt and the list goes on……..they see them twirl at the Neiman Marcus Best Dressed Lunch, listen to them brag about their charity donations and then they see how far their charity really goes in real life when they need real help, like escaping from a violent drunk or hell even needing an entry level job at one of their companies……….it is a joke