Suburban Chicago businessman Ty Warner, who became a billionaire after creating Beanie Babies collectibles, entered a guilty plea Wednesday for tax evasion, apologizing in a choked-up voice and telling a federal judge he had known his tax forms weren't accurate.
Suburban Chicago businessman Ty Warner, who became a billionaire after creating Beanie Babies collectibles, entered a guilty plea Wednesday for tax evasion, apologizing in a choked-up voice and telling a federal judge he had known his tax forms weren’t accurate.
His plea was expected. Last month his lawyer and federal authorities said he would plead guilty. His lawyer said he’ll pay more than $50 million in civil penalties for not disclosing a foreign bank account. And Warner faces up to five years in prison. His sentencing is set for January.
Prosecutors say he failed to report $24.4 million in income from 1999 to 2007 and failed to pay taxes of about $5 million.
Warner acknowledged that he told no one of his Swiss bank accounts, not even his accountants.
“When I signed those returns, I knew those monies were missing,” he said.
“It was not accurate. I apologize for my conduct. It’s a terrible way to meet you,” Warner told the judge. He rubbed the back of his neck nervously as he spoke, his voice breaking.
“I made a mistake,” said Warner, a college dropout who said he attended one year at Kalamazoo College. “I’m pleading guilty because I am guilty.”
Warner, 69, trim and wearing a dark suit, white shirt and thick-rimmed glasses, told the judge that he was hard of hearing, causing U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras to speak up and use a microphone.
Besides possible prison time for evading about $5 million in taxes, the $53 million in civil penalties is due to Warner not disclosing his foreign accounts. Such penalties can be levied on up to 50 percent of the amount in the account. The account had as much as $107 million at one time, it was disclosed during the proceedings.
He even concealed his name from one account by registering it as “Molani Foundation,” a “sham company,” prosecutors said in court.
The judge said Warner, who lives in Oak Brook, Ill., may continue to travel internationally. His company, Ty Inc., is based in Westmont, Ill.
Sentencing guidelines range from 46 to 57 months, the plea agreement said.
©2013 Chicago Tribune
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