Former San Diego Mayor Gambled Away Millions
Thursday, 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.
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.
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