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Beanie Babies boss pleads guilty to tax evasion

Ty Warner will face record fines and up to five years in prison

All of the stuffed animals in the world wouldn’t make this sting less: The creator of Beanie Babies pled guilty to federal tax evasion on Oct. 2, claiming he hid millions in offshore bank accounts.

Ty Warner, the CEO of Ty Inc., now faces up to five years in federal prison and owes the government $53.6 million in fines for failing to file taxes on foreign financial accounts. That sum now becomes the largest offshore banking penalty is American history.

“I apologize for my conduct,” the 69-year old Warner said in U.S. District Court in Chicago. “I made a mistake. I'm fully responsible.”

Warner pleaded guilty to hiding $3.2 million in Swiss bank UBS AG in 2002, according to court documents. But prosecutors said Warner’s real evasion was much bigger, as he hid a total of $24.4 million in profits overseas, hiding the sum from even business and personal accountants.

The U.S. government has recently cracked down on offshore bank accounts through the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), originally passed in 2010. The new trend, which started with investigations into UBS and Credit Suisse between 2009 and 2011, will soon be ramped up even further as a FATCA provision comes into effect in 2014. The new provision will require foreign financial institutions to report information about their U.S. account holders to the Internal Revenue Service, making it even tougher to hide money abroad.

But for now, Warner remains the standard-bearer. “I'm pleading guilty because I am guilty,” Warner said in court, according to the Chicago Tribune. His official sentencing will occur on Jan. 15, 2014. In the meantime, he is free on individual recognizance.

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