Federal prosecutors are demanding a new sentence be handed to Beanie Baby creator Ty Warner, 69, after he was given probation for hiding at least $25 million from tax authorities in Swiss banks.
In a 55-page appeal filed with the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, prosecutors suggest the tax evasion the billionaire pleaded guilty to called for at least some time behind bars.
The appeal argues that letting the probation stand, “creates improper disparities between rich and poor defendants” and makes it more difficult to justify prison sentences for those who hide far less than the millions Warner concealed.
“In the future, counsel for offshore-evasion defendants, and white-collar defendants in general, will certainly argue that since Warner received probation, their clients should as well,” the filing says.
At Warner’s sentencing in January, prosecutors asked for at least a year in prison. However, Judge Charles Kocoras sentenced him to two years’ probation and 500 hours of community service. Before the sentencing hearing, Warner agreed to pay $27 million in back taxes and interest, as we’ll as a civil penalty of more than $53 million.
At sentencing, Kocoras praised Warner for his philanthropy and said society was better served by his freedom.
“Mr. Warner’s private acts of kindness, generosity, and benevolence are overwhelming,” said Kocoras of Warner’s charitable donations of an estimated $140 million. “Never have I had a defendant in any case … demonstrate the level of humanity and concern for the welfare of others as has Mr. Warner.”
Prosecutors argued against such reasoning stating that with a net worth of around $1.7 billion, the value of Warner‘s charitable giving as less than 2 percent of his wealth. The filing mentioned that some billionaires give away half their wealth.
“Wealthy people commonly make gifts to charity. Warner is no Robin Hood,” the filing says. “His past charitable contributions were not so extraordinary, in light of his wealth, that they qualify as ‘a get-out-of-jail card.’
Warner’s spokesman, Eric Herman, released a statement Friday defending the sentence.
“Unfortunately, the government is spending resources to challenge a well-reasoned and careful sentence issued by a well-respected judge,” the statement said.
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