Feds want Beanie Babies' billionaire Ty Warner to serve jail time

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

The ABC7 I-Team has learned that federal prosecutors want billionaire Beanie Baby founder Ty Warner behind bars. Warner has pleaded guilty to tax evasion and says he deserves probation.

They were wildly popular 20 years ago: Beanie Babies came looking like bears, dogs, frogs and pigs. There were no jailbirds, but that is exactly what the man behind Beanie Babies will be if federal prosecutors have their way. According to the government, 69-year-old Ty Warner should go to jail because he committed a crime of greed, socking away millions in secret Swiss accounts, to avoid paying taxes.

When Ty Warner admitted to tax evasion last fall, he didn't answer the question of greed. On Tuesday, federal prosecutors did, in a newly-filed sentencing memorandum.

According to the U.S. Attorney, Warner should be sentenced to between four and almost five years in federal prison for hiding $24 million in income overseas.

"This is a crime committed not out of necessity but greed," prosecutors state, noting that he had at least four chances to declare the Swiss accounts.

Authorities contend it was "not a one-time offense. It was a continuing course of conduct designed to conceal the accounts and related interest year after year."

Warner, who once tangled with suburban officials for building an unauthorized fence in front of his house, has a current net worth of $1.7 billion according to prosecutors. The toy mogul once signed on for a penthouse at the Trump Tower in Chicago, listed at $40 million, before completion. Quite a change from the tiny condo where Warner first started selling these plush toy dolls.

Warner claims the tax evasion was a "terrible mistake" but blames his Swiss financial advisors and says he deserves probation.

In the deal he cut with prosecutors Ty Warner agreed to pay almost $70 million in fines and back taxes. He shed tears in October when he entered the guilty plea, but authorities aren't seconding his emotions. Prosecutors suggest he is trying to manipulate the court. Sentencing is set for next Tuesday.

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