Toy magnate and Santa Barbara hotelier Ty Warner has avoided prison time, instead landing probation and community service at a Jan. 14 court hearing in Chicago.
Federal Court Judge Charles Kocoras handed down the sentence over the objections of federal prosecutors. He said he was persuaded by testimony of charitable work by Warner and his company Ty Inc. in helping employees, schools and kidney dialysis patients. Warner created a fortune for himself with Beanie Babies, collectable plush toys that hit the height of their popularity in the ’90s.
Warner earlier had pleaded guilty to participating in an extensive scheme to avoid paying federal income taxes, one that he allegedly even hid from his own accountants. He is one of more than 100 people brought to justice in a crackdown on offshore tax evasion.
Warner failed to report some $24.4 million in income, according to the guilty plea. He subsequently paid a civil penalty of $53 million and back taxes and penalties of $14 million.
The South Coast is home to some of the signature properties in his Ty Warner Hotels & Resorts empire, including the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore and Coral Casino, Montecito Club and San Ysidro Ranch, all in Montecito, and the San Marcos Pass and Sandpiper golf courses. He also provided much of the funding for the Ty Warner Sea Center on Santa Barbara’s Stearns Wharf.
He bought and tried to redevelop the Miramar Hotel in Montecito but failed, selling the property to Los Angeles developer Rick Caruso.