White Collar Crime

Former San Diego mayor charged with taking $2 million from charity to fuel gambling addiction

Former San Diego Mayor Maureen O’Connor has been charged with stealing more than $2 million from a charity she controlled to fuel a decade-long gambling addiction.

O’Connor, 66, pleaded not guilty to the charges in federal court Thursday as part of a deferred prosecution, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

Under the terms of the arrangement, O’Connor has two years to pay back the money she stole from the R.P. Foundation, a nonprofit foundation created by her late husband Robert O. Peterson, co-founder of the Jack in the Box fast-food chain. She also must receive treatment for a gambling addiction, the New York Times reports. If she complies with the conditions of the agreement, the charges against her could be dismissed.

Prosecutors said O’Connor had more than $1 billion in gambling winnings between 2000 and 2009, but that her losses exceeded her winnings by more than $13 million.

They said O’Connor, who once had an estimated net worth of $40 million to $50 million, is now destitute and in poor health.

At a news conference following her court appearance, O’Connor told reporters she had “borrowed” the money from her husband’s foundation with the intention of paying it back.

“I always intended to pay it back,” she said. “And I still intend to pay it back.”

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