The billionaire founder of the 1990s toy craze Beanie Babies has admitted tax evasion after hiding more than £3 million of income in a secret Swiss bank account.
Ty Warner, a failed actor who mortgaged his home and invested his life savings in the bean-stuffed toy idea and is now worth about $2.6 billion, faced up to five years in prison after he admitted tax evasion.
Instead, prosecutors in Chicago have fined him $53.5 million (£33 million). Warner's lawyer, Gregory Scandaglia, said the 69-year-old toy tycoon accepted "full responsibility for his actions" in what he described as an "unfortunate situation". US court documents claim that Warner first set up a Swiss bank account in 1996 with City investment giant UBS, growing to a balance of $93.6 million in 2002, when he earned $3.1 million in income on the cash, but didn't report it.
American prosecutors are clamping down on US citizens who hide cash abroad in order to avoid tax charges.
At the peak of the Beanie craze, the plush toys generated hundreds of millions of dollars for Ty Inc, of which Warner is the sole owner.
He is also known for being a generous philanthropist, donating more than $6 million to the Andre Agassi Foundation for underprivileged children, giving away one million Beanie Babies for children in Iraq and 300 million of the plush toys to the Red Cross to encourage people to give blood.