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Stripper: Hillsborough judge owes me

TAMPA — A New York City stripper says a local appeals judge wanted to marry her.

Christy Yamanaka says she had sex with 2nd District Court of Appeal Judge Thomas E. Stringer Sr. three times during their 15-year friendship.

She paid him rent in a home he once owned in Hawaii, and now lives in a New York City apartment leased under his name.

She says the married father of five owes her hundreds of thousands of dollars that he helped hide from creditors.

"He took my money," she said during a phone interview Wednesday.

Yamanaka, 47, also said she told Stringer that she would keep quiet if he gave her the money she believes she is owed. When he refused, she went to the media.

On Tuesday, the veteran judge denied shielding her from creditors seeking nearly $315,000.

Stringer, who hears appeals cases from a 14-county district that includes Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco, declined on Tuesday to discuss in detail his personal and business relationship with Yamanaka. He cited her plans to sue him.

Stringer, 63, did not respond to a request for further comment Wednesday.

"I am proud to have been a public servant for more than 30 years," Stringer said in a prepared statement. "I am hopeful that the citizens of this community will withhold judgment until all the facts are fully developed in the appropriate forum."

Yamanaka is a dancer at Scores East Side, an upscale strip club frequented by celebrities and athletes in New York City.

Both she and Stringer say they met 15 years ago at what was then Malio's restaurant on Dale Mabry Highway. At the time, he was a circuit judge in Tampa. She worked as a stripper at 2001 Odyssey, though it is unclear whether the judge knew that.

He bought her a drink and told her she was beautiful, she said.

He started coming to her home for long lunches and dinners, eating meals cooked by her live-in Japanese maid, she said.

Out of respect, she called Stringer "Your Majesty."

Yamanaka had lived in Japan for seven years and says the country revered judges almost like gods.

He said he would leave his wife for her, Yamanaka claims, but she rebuffed his romantic advances.

They lost touch when she moved to Toronto.

Yamanaka said she contacted Stringer during the spring of 2004. She had declared bankruptcy in Las Vegas, and creditors won $315,000 in judgments against her. She hoped Stringer would help her sort out the legal mess.

The judge acknowledges that he referred Yamanaka to his son, Tampa attorney Daryl Stringer. Yamanaka said she paid the younger Stringer $5,000 to resolve her case.

She says Thomas Stringer knew about her credit problems before he purchased a home for $440,000 in Hawaii in late 2004. The judge said he couldn't recall when he learned of her debt.

On his public financial disclosure forms for 2005 and 2006, he listed Yamanaka as the home's tenant.

Around the same time, Yamanaka says, the judge suggested that she put her money in his accounts to protect it from creditors until a settlement could be reached. Stringer denied doing that.

Bill Frederick, a public relations specialist handling calls for Stringer, said the judge and Yamanaka jointly invested in the Hawaiian house, and split the proceeds when it sold in December 2006 for $749,000.

Yamanaka says she did not get any of the profits.

Stringer's financial disclosures show a significant jump in his cash on hand in recent years. Public officials are not required to list the source of such money on their disclosure forms. He had nearly $11,000 in cash assets in 2003. By 2006, he had $231,000.

Stringer said he "was just helping a friend" when he leased an apartment last spring for Yamanaka.

His wife of 25 years, Tampa Housing Authority public relations director Lillian Stringer, did not return calls to the St. Petersburg Times on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Yamanaka said the judge traveled north last year to sign the lease. She said she paid for his stay at the Waldorf Astoria and $1,500 worth of champagne and dances for him at the strip club where she works. They had sex in his hotel room, she said.

When asked to provide documentation of all her claims, she said she gave the documents confirming her allegations to a television news reporter and her lawyer, and could not make them available to the Times.

Yamanaka has no criminal record in Florida or Hawaii. Records from Nevada and New York were unavailable.

This week, she hired a Madison Avenue attorney who helped defend Michael Jackson against child molestation charges. Attorney Joe Tacopina said they plan to file suit against Stringer by the end of the month but do not have plans to report Stringer to the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission.

Yamanaka said she does not believe Stringer, appointed to the appeals bench in 1999 by Gov. Jeb Bush, should remain a judge.

"He tell the people what is wrong, what is right," she said. "When he is wrong 100 percent, how can he dare judge another person?"

Times staff writer Jeff Testerman contributed to this story. Colleen Jenkins can be reached at cjenkins@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3337.

Stripper: Hillsborough judge owes me 03/12/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 19, 2008 8:12pm]
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