Dem Billionaire Running for Illinois Governor Pleaded Guilty to Misdemeanor Involving Finances

J.B. Pritzker / Getty Images

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Democratic billionaire J.B. Pritzker, who was named one of the world's wealthiest people on Monday and has launched an exploratory committee to run for governor of Illinois, once pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of writing a bad check.

Pritzker, an heir to the Hyatt Hotel empire, pleaded guilty in 1986 to a misdemeanor count for writing a "worthless check," only to be charged with doing it again two years later, according to court records obtained by Politico.

In June 1986, Pritzker wrote a bad check for the amount of $60.46.

Two years later, the hotel heir was charged with writing a bad check for $17.72 at a grocery store chain, Big Star, in Durham County, N.C. Court records show the check was written in July 1985.

The second charge, which came in 1988, was later dismissed.

A spokesperson for Pritzker issued a statement to Politico, accusing a potential gubernatorial opponent of leaking the story.

The spokesperson dismissed the charges as "two checks totaling $78 that were accidentally written 30 years ago while JB was in college."

At the time of the charges, Pritzker was attending Duke University, where he graduated with a degree in political science.

The $60 check's recipient is only shown as "Piatt," according to records.

An official with the billionaire's exploratory committee for governor claimed the check bounced because Pritzker wrote it and later closed his bank account. The check was then cashed after the account had been closed, according to the official.

But according to North Carolina statute, a criminal charge comes if a person acts with intent, Politico noted, indicating authorities may have had reason to believe Pritzker wrote a check knowing the associated account was closed.

Pritzker announced last week that he is forming an exploratory committee to consider running for Illinois governor in 2018. He will contribute $200,000 to cover the committee's day-to-day operations, according to NBC Chicago.

The billionaire is a major Democratic donor who was one of Hillary Clinton's biggest fundraisers in 2016.

Pritzker's personal website says that in the 1980s "he worked as a legislative aide and policy adviser to three members of Congress."

Five other people have announced gubernatorial bids in what should be a big-money Democratic primary.

Madeleine Weast

Madeleine Weast   Email Madeleine | Full Bio | RSS
Madeleine Weast is Assistant Social Media Editor for the Washington Free Beacon. She graduated from the University of Kansas in 2014. Prior to joining the Beacon, she was a Communications Fellow at The Charles Koch Institute. Madeleine is from Prairie Village, Kansas and lives in Washington, D.C. Her Twitter handle is @MadeleineWeast.

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