By ALAN FARNHAM
H. Ty Warner, creator of Beanie Babies, was charged today with federal tax evasion stemming from what the U.S. Attorney's office says was an illegal offshore account the toymaker kept in Switzerland. Warner has agreed to plead guilty to the charge and pay a $53 million civil penalty.
Warner, 69, of Oakbrook, Ill., is accused of having failed to report to the IRS income earned from that account. By that failure, according to the government's court filings, Warner attempted to evade approximately $885,300 in income taxes he otherwise would have had to pay for calendar year 2002.
Gary S. Shapiro, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, said in a statement: "Regardless of wealth, everyone must pay taxes on all of their income, not just the amount they choose to report. The charge alleges that Warner went to great lengths to hide from his accountants and the IRS more than $3.1 million in foreign income generated in a secret Swiss account. Such conduct invites federal prosecution."
The charge against Warner results from an ongoing investigation by the IRS of bank accounts established by the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) for U.S. clients. UBS in 2009 admitted to having helped U.S. taxpayers hide money from the IRS, and, as part of an agreement with the IRS, agreed to provide the government with the names of customers.
The U.S. Attorney's Office says Warner is cooperating with the investigation and has indicated to authorities that he intends to plead guilty. He is the second U.S. taxpayer to be charged in connection with the IRS' investigation of UBS.
Were he to be found guilty, he faces a maximum penalty of a $250,000 fine and five years in prison. U.S. taxpayers are required by federal law to pay taxes on all income, no matter where in the world it may have been earned.
Gregory Scandaglia, Warner's attorney, issued a statement in which he said that Warner had today reached an agreement with the U.S. Attorney's office "to resolve an investigation into an overseas account he opened in 1996. Mr. Warner will voluntarily enter a guilty plea to a single charge of tax evasion and resolve all issues with respect to any taxes owed. Also, as part of the plea agreement, Mr. Warner will pay a civil penalty of $53,552,248 for failure to file a Foreign Bank Account Report."
Scandaglia's statement concluded, "This is an unfortunate situation that Mr. Warner has been trying to revsolve for several years now--including through an attempt to enroll in the IRS's Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program in 2009. Mr. Warner accepts full responsibility for his actions with this plea agreement."