skip to main content

Listen

Read

Watch

Schedules

Programs

Events

Give

Account

Donation Heart Ribbon

Former San Diego Mayor Gambled Away Millions

Above: Former San Diego Mayor Maureen O'Connor appeared in federal court and entered into a deferred prosecution agreement in which she acknowledged misappropriating millions of dollars from her deceased husband's charitable foundation, February 14, 2013.

Federal prosecutors say former San Diego mayor Maureen O'Connor, 66, gambled away millions of dollars, and embezzled money from her late husband's foundation in the process.

Aired 2/14/13 on KPBS Midday Edition.

Federal prosecutors say former San Diego mayor Maureen O'Connor gambled away millions of dollars.

Transcript

Prosecutor Phillip Halpern during press conference

Aired 2/15/13 on KPBS News.

Federal prosecutors say former San Diego mayor Maureen O'Connor gambled away millions of dollars.

O’Connor appeared in federal court Thursday morning and pleaded not guilty to embezzlement charges. She has entered into a deferred prosecution agreement in which she acknowledged misappropriating millions of dollars from the R.P. Foundation. She has agreed to repay the foundation more than $2 million and to seek treatment for her gambling addiction.

The U.S. Attorney agreed to a deferred prosecution due to O'Connor's health. The former mayor has suffered from a brain tumor, which her lawyer suggested contributed to her gambling addiction.

O'Connor was addicted to video gaming. Prosecutor Phillip Halpern said over the course of a decade O'Connor won as much as $1 billion and lost more than that. Her lawyer said those figures are misleading because they are cumulative numbers and O'Conner never had a billion dollars to lose at any one time.

Attorney Eugene Iredale said his client's total losses were in the neighborhood of $13 million.

O'Connor was San Diego's first female mayor, holding the office for two terms from 1986 to 1992. The popular Democrat was a physical education teacher before entering the political arena. She sat on the City Council and the San Diego Unified Port District Commission prior to becoming mayor.

In 1977, she married Robert O. Peterson, who founded the Jack-In-The-Box fast-food chain and later Southern California First National Bank, which eventually became part of the Union Bank empire. The couple had no children, and he died in 1994.

O'Connor kept a low profile since leaving the mayor's office but her real estate investments recently gained attention, according to U-T San Diego.

She sold the luxury Heritage House resort in Mendocino County for $19.5 million in 2005 and has since sued the German bank that provided financing for the buyers for fraud, the newspaper reported.

In 2010, O'Connor sold the La Jolla home now owned by former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney for $2.5 million. The sale was a short sale, and soon after the purchase the county reassessed the property at a $4.5 million value, according to U-T San Diego.

Editor's note: an earlier version of this story cited prosecutors saying O'Connor gambled away $1 billion--her lawyer says her losses were in the low millions.

Comments

Avatar for user 'astrofan'

astrofan | February 14, 2013 at 1:29 p.m. ― 1 year, 5 months ago

"She had a gambling addiction that caused her to lose millions of dollars."

No, she chose to gamble millions of stolen dollars that, due to the nature of gambling, resulted in the lost of millions of dollars.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Really123'

Really123 | February 14, 2013 at 1:37 p.m. ― 1 year, 5 months ago

It always shocks me when someone will gamble away more money than I will ever see in my lifetime, unless I win the lottery, which is gambling.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Crolley40'

Crolley40 | February 15, 2013 at 2:11 a.m. ― 1 year, 5 months ago

Wow she must be a VIP at the one near Cachuma lake, Chumash In C! though it alleges she only played video version. Who knows this media didn't investigate properly..whether she gambled offline establishments also or not.. What about Sychuan or Barona is anybody's guess. Gambling is a bad habit, but she certainly needs some proper treatment for that.. Too much gambling venues thesedays..

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Mmikey'

Mmikey | February 15, 2013 at 10:23 a.m. ― 1 year, 5 months ago

still, after all is said and done, she is nothing more than a thief .

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | February 15, 2013 at 3:22 p.m. ― 1 year, 5 months ago

While not really related to the meat of the story, I'm a bit taken back by the last sentence.

Willard Romney, someone estimated at being worth over $200,000,000, swooped in and bought a short sale house at half it's worth?

This stooge really knows how to game the system, doesn't he? Short sales for instant equity profit, offshore acocunts for tax evasion, *sigh* I guess all us "little people" should just "admire" his shrewd nature since it's the "American way" to get rich.

Thank the heavens/meteors above he didn't win, I can only imagine what this country would look like now.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | February 15, 2013 at 3:25 p.m. ― 1 year, 5 months ago

Or maybe I read it wrong - did it have other owners between Maureen and Willard, or was Willard the one who bought it in a short sale??

( | suggest removal )