by Brian Mahany
Politicians can be greedy like anyone else. Unfortunately, society is filled with people who would rather steal, cheat and commit fraud… anything but a hard days work. Former San Diego Mayor, Maureen O’Connor, is a bit different. She inherited millions after her husband Robert Peterson died in 1994. (Peterson was the founder of Jack-in-the-Box restaurants.) Apparently the millions weren’t enough. After leaving office, prosecutors says she made over $1 billion from gambling at Las Vegas and Atlantic City casinos… that still wasn’t enough.
Despite having already won over a billion dollars, prosecutors say that she continued to gamble and ended up taking money from her husband’s charitable trust established by her late husband to fund Alzheimer’s research, health care for the poor, and the Little Wishes Foundation (which helps kids suffering from cancer), leaving it bankrupt.
O’Connor isn’t facing prison, although she was charged with the felony crime of committing a Prohibited Financial Transaction. While under investigation, she suffered a brain tumor. Instead of a trial, a United States Magistrate Judge allowed her to participate in a deferred prosecution agreement. She is required to pay $2 million in restitution but will not see the inside of a jail cell.
We understand that gambling can be an addiction for some people, however, there still must be consequences for our personal actions. For Maureen O’Connor, the consequences probably won’t be felt in this life.
This case is especially interesting for us because we represent victims of fraud. While the casinos may have lost money, they knowingly took a risk by extending credit to a gambler with a billion dollar habit. The real victims in this case are the charities, such as the Little Wishes Foundation, that relied on the trust created by O’Connor’s late husband for funding. Usually we have solutions to these problems but unfortunately, not every case has a remedy.
If there is a lesson here it is the need for due diligence. Robert Peterson’s charitable trust had 3 trustees, according to the Justice Department’s press release and O’Connor was one of them. We wonder what the others were doing and why they didn’t step in?
U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said, “[N]o figure, regardless of how much good they’ve done or how much they’ve given to charity, can escape criminal liability with impunity.” Unfortunately, we think O’Connor has. With no income, no assets and serious health problems, it is doubtful that O’Connor can pay millions in restitution.
If you or your business lost your money through fraud, give us a call. We handle a wide variety of fraud cases including Ponzi schemes, stockbroker fraud, legal malpractice, bogus welfare benefit plans and TIC scams. Often we can collect from third parties who facilitated the sale of these investment scams or the professionals who blessed them.
Mahany & Ertl – America’s Fraud Lawyers. Offices in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Detroit, Michigan; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Portland, Maine and San Francisco, California. Services available in many jurisdictions.
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