UK & World News
$1bn Gambling Loser Stole $2m From Charity
A former San Diego mayor has admitted taking $2.1m (£1.35m) in charity funds as she won and then lost $1bn (£644m) in a decade-long gambling spree.
Maureen O'Connor claimed the addiction was brought on by grief following the death of her husband.
It drove her to use up all her savings, auction off her belongings, sell her homes, and borrow from friends.
She finally looted cash from the foundation set up by her late partner, Robert O Peterson, the owner of the Jack in the Box fast food chain.
The 66-year-old's game of choice was video poker at casinos in San Diego, Las Vegas and Atlantic City, where she would play for hours at a time.
Her cumulative winnings were put at around $1bn from 2000 to 2009, including $200m in one year alone.
But her net gambling losses topped $13m, and she is now virtually broke.
It marked a stunning fall for O'Connor, a former physical education teacher who was elected to the City Council when she was 25 and became San Diego's first female mayor in 1986.
At a news conference on Thursday, she said she always intended to repay the foundation and also appeared to partly blame her behaviour on a brain tumour that was diagnosed in 2011.
"There are two Maureens. Maureen number one and Maureen number two," she said.
"Maureen number two is the Maureen who did not know she had a tumour growing in her brain."
O'Connor pleaded not guilty to a money laundering charge under a deal with federal prosecutors that allows her to defer prosecution for two years as she works to repay the debt.
She could face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
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