Ty Warner, creator of Beanie Babies toys, signs autographs in a rare appearance to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Beanie Babies toy line at the American International Toy Fair February 16, 2003.
The billionaire who created Beanie Babies pleaded guilty Wednesday to tax evasion charges.
"I apologize for my conduct," H. Ty Warner told a federal judge, removing his designer tortoise-shell glasses and wiping away tears as he struggled to regain his composure. "This is a terrible way to meet your honor."
"I have so much to be thankful for," said the suburban Chicago businessman, his voice breaking as he cited his Illinois-based stuffed-toy company, TY Inc. "There is no excuse for my actions."
Warner's lawyer said the 69-year-old planned to enter a guilty plea during the arraignment in Chicago as part of an agreement with prosecutors.
He faces up to five years when he is sentenced Jan. 15.
Beanie Babies first appeared in the mid-'90s, triggering a craze that generated hundreds of millions of dollars for Westmont-based TY Inc. Forbes recently estimated Warner's net worth at $2.6 billion.
Warner is accused of failing to report income he earned in an offshore bank account.
Prosecutors said Warner maintained a secret account with UBS starting in 1996 then transferred the assets in 2002 to a second Swiss financial institution. The account's balance at the time was about $93,630,083.
Warner allegedly earned $3.1 million through investments held in his UBS account and he allegedly failed to tell his accountants about the income.
His attorney said last month the creator of the famous stuffed toys had also agreed to pay a $53 million penalty. Prosecutors didn't mention such a payment.