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Beanie Babies creator Ty Warner won't serve prison time for tax evasion

By Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
updated 7:55 PM EST, Tue January 14, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A judge sentences Ty Warner to two years' probation and community service
  • Warner, who pleaded guilty to tax evasion, must also pay a $100,000 fine
  • Warner is the owner of TY Inc., the maker of Beanie Babies plush toys

(CNN) -- Ty Warner, the billionaire creator of Beanie Babies plush toys, won't serve prison time for hiding millions of dollars in secret Swiss bank accounts to evade taxes.

A judge sentenced Warner to two years' probation Tuesday, ordering him to perform 500 hours of community service at three Chicago high schools and pay a $100,000 fine.

"Society will be best served to allow (Warner) to continue his good works," U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras said at a sentencing hearing Tuesday, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago.

Warner had pleaded guilty to tax evasion and already paid a $53 million civil penalty and about $27 million in back taxes, prosecutors said. When he pleaded guilty, Warner admitted that he had maintained Swiss bank accounts with an unreported gross income of more than $24 million.

Warner is the owner and founder of TY Inc., which hit it big in the 1990s when Beanie Babies became some of the nation's hottest toys and collector's items. The plush animals sell for as little as $5, though rare models can fetch thousands of dollars at auction.

While Beanie Babies have largely faded from the public consciousness, they've made a fortune for Warner. Forbes Magazine estimates his net worth as of September at $2.6 billion.

The tax evasion charge carried a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

CNNMoney's James O'Toole and CNN's Kara Devlin contributed to this report.

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