Who's more powerful than a billionaire? The taxman, of course.
That almighty agent of the government added another scalp to his bag last week when Ty Warner, the Beanie Babies baron, plead guilty to tax evasion in a tearful moment inside a downtown Chicago courtroom. Warner, who hid as much as $107 million in an offshore account, agreed to pay $53 million in civil penalties. He now faces up to five years in jail, his sentencing expected to follow in January.
To be sure, Warner certainly wasn’t the first billionaire in this type of situation.
Among the most infamous instances involved commodities investors Marc Rich and Pincus Green, who traded oil with Iran during the hostage crisis, fled to Europe in 1983 to escape U.S. tax charges and then decades later both received get-of-jail-free cards in the form of an eleventh-hour pardon from President Clinton. Russian-born Igor Olenicoff in 2007 copped to lying for years about accounts in the Bahamas, Switzerland and Britain. He later blamed the evasion on Swiss bank UBS, and then tried--and failed--to sue UBS. Now UBS is suing him.
And it is never possible to forget Leona Helmsley. The business titan and tyrant, nicknamed The Queen of Mean, was convicted in 1989, following a trial in which a former housekeeper quoted her as saying, "We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes."
Perhaps. But Helmsley certainly immortalizes the proverbial bigger-they-are type of comeuppance.
Embedded in the following slideshow, more on the crime and punishment of Helmsley and the rest—artful dodgers everyone one of them.
Reach Abram Brown at email@example.com.