(Photo: Screen Grab via YouTube/Chicago Tribune)
Billionaire creator of Beanie Baby plush toys Ty Warner, who currently sits at number 209 on The Forbes 400 list of richest people in the United States, is now facing up to 57 months in prison for evading taxes on $107 million he stashed in Swiss accounts, and he is begging the court not to put him behind bars.
A Bloomberg News report noted that Warner, 69, asked U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras to sentence him to probation with community service in a New Year's Eve court filing. Nonbinding sentencing guidelines indicate that he can be sent to prison for a period of 46 to 57 months on Jan. 14.
"This case concerns an isolated event in Ty's otherwise law-abiding life, during which he has paid approximately $1 billion in taxes," Warner's lawyers noted in the filing. "There is no reason to believe prison time is necessary to prevent him from engaging in tax evasion again."
The filing for the probation request highlighted that "dozens of individuals who engaged in the exact same conduct with respect to undisclosed overseas accounts" got probation. In the past five years more than 100 people have been prosecuted for offshore tax evasion.
Warner, who is worth $2.6 billion according to Forbes, pleaded guilty on Oct. 2 to evading more than $5.5 million in taxes on assets in Swiss accounts he concealed from the Internal Revenue Service. He owns Beanie Baby manufacturer, Ty Inc., and Ty Warner Hotels & Resorts, which boasts the Four Seasons Hotel in New York among its operations. Billed at $41,836 per night, the Ty Warner Penthouse Suite, ranks as the third most expensive hotel suite in the world.
In sentencing, Kocoras is allowed to consider factors such as previous sentences in similar cases, Warner's charitable gifts and his commitment to pay penalties, back taxes and interest of more than $69 million.
Kocoras was also asked to consider the fact that Warner was rejected by an IRS amnesty program which allowed more than 38,000 Americans with offshore accounts to avoid prosecution.
"Ty's behavior was no different legally or factually from that of tens of thousands of taxpayers who were never sentenced -- or even prosecuted -- because they were admitted into IRS voluntary disclosure programs," lawyers argued in the filing.
They also argued that, despite his success as a toy manufacturer, he was a financial novice.
"For all his sophistication with respect to the design and manufacture of plush dolls, and the beauty and design of hotel properties, he remains a relative novice when it comes to financial issues," noted the filing.
The billionaire's lawyers asked Kocoras to impose "substantial community service," such as work at the Ellen H. Richards Career Academy High School and the Edward Tilden Career Community Academy High School, which are both located in Chicago.