Beanie Baby creator Ty Warner leaving the Dirksen Federal Building after being arraigned on federal tax evasion charges on Wednesday, October 2, 2013, in Chicago. | Chandler West/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 12, 2014 6:20AM
Lawyers for billionaire Beanie Baby creator and convicted tax cheat Ty Warner say he’s “a self-made man with a generous heart” and a federal judge was right not to send him to the big house.
Prosecutors were left fuming in January after Warner was handed just two years probation and 500 hours community service for hiding $100 million in secret Swiss bank accounts to con the IRS. In February, they asked the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to order Warner be resentenced.
But attorneys for the 69-year-old Oak Brook toy industry titan argued in a 57-page court filing Thursday that the government’s unusual appeal should be thrown out.
U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras was right to give Warner credit for his lifetime of “concern and generosity to others,” they wrote.
Kocoras — visibly moved by the 70 letters of support sent by beneficiaries of Warner’s largesse, including charities and sick employees he helped — gushed in January that Warner had exhibited a “depth of humanity” that he had never seen in any other criminal defendant.
He noted at the time that the enormous $53 million fine Warner agreed to pay dwarfed the estimated $5 million in taxes he dodged and said: “Society will be best served by allowing him to continue to do his good works.”
Warner’s attorneys wrote in their filing Thursday that Kocoras acted reasonably in sparing Warner, noting that in more than half of similar cases of offshore tax-dodging schemes, defendants also avoided prison time.
They said Warner tried to come clean, but was refused entry to an amnesty program that allowed other offshore tax cheats to escape prosecution.
But prosecutors previously argued that Warner’s crimes were on a far larger scale, adding that Kocoras gave too much weight to Warner’s charitable contributions, given his estimated $2.6 billion wealth.
They noted that Skokie businessman Peter Troost — who hid far less in a similar offshore UBS account, was handed a year behind bars.
At least one small-time Chicago tax cheat — a South Side tax preparer — has also been sent to prison by federal judges since Warner was sentenced in January.
In the meantime, Warner has started his community service at Leo High School on the South Side, where he’s working with teachers to set up an “entrepreneur’s club” for students when the new school year begins in September, Leo president Dan McGrath said.
The appeals court is expected to rule later this year.