Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This

News

Former San Diego Mayor Gambled $1 Billion Of Her Jack In The Box Fortune

LAist relies on your reader support, not paywalls.
Freely accessible local news is vital. Please power our reporters and help keep us independent with a donation today.

San Diego's former beloved mayor and the wife of the late Jack In The Box's founder gambled $1 billion of her fortune on video poker over the course of a decade.

Maureen O'Connor, 66, was the mayor of San Diego from 1988 until 1992 and also the wife of the late fast food magnate Robert O. Peterson. From all accounts, she was a popular mayor. Reporters who covered her while she was in office called her a "goody two shoes" and said her only apparent vice during her time in office seemed to be occasionally sneaking away during the day to catch a movie, according to the New York Times.

But things went downhill for O'Connor after the death of her husband in 1994. She developed a gambling habit, and to fuel it, she liquidated her assets, took out second and even third mortgages on her properties and dug herself deep into debt. Her gambling landed her in court when she pilfered $2,088,000 from her late husband's foundation that supported local charities.

Her lawyer blames the epic spree on grief and a brain tumor that she had removed in 2011. He said that her behavior fit the syndrom known as "grief gambling," and the tumor only aggravated it by damaging parts of the brain that control reasoning and judgment. She told ABC 10 in San Diego that after the tumor was removed, she lost the desire to gamble. She says that the tumor made her feel like a different person.

Support for LAist comes from

O'Connor worked out a plea deal with prosecutors that allows her to avoid prison. She agreed to repay the money she took from the foundation and also to undergo treatment for her gambling habit, according to Reuters. If she meets the terms of the deal, the case will be dropped.

Reporters were not allowed into court, but O'Connor told reporters outside: "I will repay the loans. I always meant to."

In a statement, U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy called O'Connor a "selfless public official who contributed much to the well-being of San Diego." But she added: "No figure, regardless of how much good they've done or how much they've given to charity, can escape criminal liability with impunity."