Friday, February 15, 2013

Prosecutors: Ex-Mayor Stole Millions From Husband's Foundation

The former mayor of San Diego is accused of stealing millions from her late husband's foundation to feed her gambling addiction, according to a report in The New York Times.

Maureen O'Connor spent the last 10 years betting more than a billion dollars at casinos across the U.S., liquidating her savings, auctioning her belongings, and selling off her real estate in order to continue her wagers. Prosecutors also say she stole $2,088,000 from her husband's foundation, leaving it bankrupt. The name of the foundation was not listed in the report.

O'Connor appeared in court Thursday to answer the charges against her, and tearfully admitted to them. She blamed an addiction to gambling aggravated by a brain tumor for her decisions, and told reporters that she didn't mean to harm the city.

"Those of you who know me here would know that I never meant to hurt the city that I love," she said. “I always intended to pay [the money] back and I still intend to pay it back,” she said.

While the money she stole did not come from the city, the money taken from the trust of her husband, Robert O. Pearson, founder of the Jack-in-the-Box burger chain, most likely would have gone to local charities.

Documents filed in court by her lawyers state that after Pearson died in 1994, O'Connor turned to gambling to deal with the loss. “She began to seek an outlet in gambling,” her lawyers wrote. “The pattern fits the syndrome known as grief gambling.”

While she made over a billion dollars through bets at casinos in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and San Diego, she still lost over $13 million.

Under an agreement made with federal prosecutors, O'Connor will get treatment for gambling addiction and has two years to pay back the foundation and taxes owed to the government.

You can read the full story in The New York Times.

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