Maureen O’Connor, the former mayor of San Diego admits to stealing more than $2 million from her late husband’s charity foundation to feed a gambling addiction she says is caused by a brain tuner.
O’Connor says she always planned to pay the money back, and it appears the U.S. Justice Department is going to give her the opportunity. ABC News reports the 66-year-old struck a deal that allows the former mayor to plead not guilty to money laundering in federal court. She will have two years to repay the stolen funds and undergo gambling addiction treatment.
In 2011, O’Connor was diagnosed with a tumor her attorney says affected the area of the brain “that controls logic and reasoning and, most important, judgment.” She since had the tumor removed. “There are two Maureens — Maureen No. 1 and Maureen No. 2,” O’Connor tells reporters. “Maureen No. 2 is the Maureen who did not know she had a tumor growing in her brain.”
U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy calls O’Connor “a selfless public official who contributed much to the well-being of San Diego.” But, Duffy adds, “No figure, regardless of how much good they’ve done or how much they’ve given to charity, can escape criminal liability with impunity.”
O’Connor was San Diego’s first female mayor, serving from 1986 to 1992. Her gambling problem began in the wake of her husband’s death, along with the deaths of two siblings Her attorney refers to it as “grief gambling” in court documents. O’Connor went on to win and lose more than $1 billion over the course of a decade.
Maureen’s late husband was Robert Peterson, founder of Jack in the Box restaurants.