Ex-mayor of San Diego gambled away $1bn

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A FORMER mayor of a US city lost more than $1 billion (£640 million) in a ten-year gambling spree.

Maureen O’Connor, 66, who appears to blame the gambling spree on a brain tumour, admitted in court in San Diego that she took £1.4m from her late husband’s charitable foundation.

O’Connor, a former mayor of San Diego, pleaded not guilty to a money laundering charge in an agreement with the US justice department that defers prosecution for two years while she tries to repay the foundation and receives treatment for gambling.

O’Connor once had a personal fortune her lawyer estimated at £26m-32m. She inherited the money from her husband, Robert O Peterson, founder of a fast-food chain. She is now virtually broke and lives with her sister.

O’Connor began gambling in about 2001 as she struggled with pain and loneliness from the death of her husband from leukaemia in 1994 and of several close friends, her lawyer said. He called it “grief gambling”.

She won about $1bn from 2000 to 2009, according to winnings that casinos reported to the Internal Revenue Service, but lost even more.