The creator of the wildly popular Beanie Babies toy line agreed to plead guilty to felony tax evasion charges and will pay a $53.5 million penalty as part of a settlement agreement, the Chicago Tribune reported on Wednesday.
Officials at the U.S. Attorney's office in Chicago told the Tribune that Ty Warner was under investigation for failing to disclose an off-shore account he personally opened in Switzerland in 1996 with the Swiss bank UBS. Warner was accused of having more than $93 million in the account in 2002, when he transferred the funds to another bank, Zürcher Kantonalbank.
Prosecutors accused Warner of failing to notify his accountants about both the bank account and the $3.1 million in foreign income it generated. He subsequently did not disclose that income in his 2002 tax return, enabling him to avoid paying $885,300 in taxes for that year. UBS revealed Warner's account as part of a 2009 agreement with the IRS after admitting that it helped U.S. clients hide their accounts.
"This is an unfortunate situation that Mr. Warner has been trying to resolve for several years now, including through an attempt to enroll in the IRS’s Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program in 2009," Warner's lawyer, Gregory Scandaglia, said to the Tribune. "Mr. Warner accepts full responsibility for his actions with this plea agreement."
Warner's net worth is estimated to be around $2.6 billion. Sales of the Beanie Babies line generated an estimated $1 billion in 1998, at the height of their popularity.
Watch the Tribune's report on Warner's settlement, aired Wednesday, below.