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Former appeals judge pleads guilty to federal bank fraud

TAMPA — A man who once sat in judgment of others was found guilty Thursday of federal bank fraud.

Former appeals Judge Thomas E. Stringer Sr. made his first appearance in court since being charged last month with fraudulently obtaining a $350,000 mortgage for a Hawaiian residence he bought with a stripper.

Stringer lied on a loan application in 2004, claiming that none of the money used for the down payment was borrowed, when in fact he had gotten the cash from someone else.

As expected, the former judge pleaded guilty.

"Are you pleading guilty because you are in fact guilty of the offense?" U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Pizzo asked.

"Yes, your honor," Stringer said.

Stringer, 65, resigned from the 2nd District Court of Appeal in February amid questions about his financial dealings. He served more than two decades as a judge, first in county and state courts and then on the appellate level.

Pizzo explained that the guilty finding would result in Stringer losing his right to vote, to serve on a jury and to carry a gun. It also could affect his law license and state retirement benefits, the magistrate judge said.

Stringer's attorney reiterated that the guilty plea had no bearing on his service on the bench.

The bank fraud charge carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

Prosecutors have recommended that Stringer serve no time behind bars because no one sustained a loss from the crime and the loan was repaid in full.

The final sentencing decision is up to U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich.

The government will seek to recoup from Stringer the $222,362 in proceeds he gained from selling the home in Hawaii.

Stringer left the federal courthouse in Tampa without speaking to reporters, who swarmed him with cameras and microphones until he got into a sport utility vehicle and was whisked away.

Colleen Jenkins can be reached at cjenkins@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3337.

Former appeals judge pleads guilty to federal bank fraud 08/06/09 [Last modified: Thursday, August 6, 2009 11:34pm]

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