Prince George's County Council member Anthony J. Cicoria illegally used $33,000 in campaign funds to make mortgage payments on an investment property he bought in 1986, then lied on his state income tax forms by writing off some of the payments as if he had used his own money, a prosecutor told the jury in Cicoria's theft trial yesterday.

In an hour-long opening statement, Maryland prosecutor Scott Nevin outlined a series of ways in which Cicoria and his wife, Catherine, allegedly siphoned $64,324 out of the council member's campaign fund in the 1980s. The couple allegedly used the money for personal expenses, including trips to Florida, Nevin said.

"You'll be hearing {about} false documents, phony receipts, forged signatures, and lies after lies after lies," Nevin told the Circuit Court jurors, sworn in yesterday morning before Judge Robert C. Nalley. "And those terms all describe the actions of this defendant and his wife."

Anthony Cicoria, 50, a second-term Democrat from Hyattsville who is seeking reelection in November, listened without expression as Nevin addressed the 12 jurors and six alternates, mapping the course the state's case will follow in what is expected to be a three-week trial.

In the defense's opening statement, Cicoria's attorney, Robert Mance, called the state's case "nothing more than theory."

Although campaign money may have improperly ended up in the personal checking account of Cicoria and his wife, the money ultimately was used for legitimate campaign-related expenses, Mance told the jury. "Maybe we'll see evidence of technical violations of campaign finance law" as the state presents its case, he said. "Bad bookkeeping. I think you're going to find a reasonable basis for that. Not thievery. Bad bookkeeping."

Cicoria is charged with three counts of filing false tax returns and one count each of felony theft and conspiracy.

His 52-year-old wife, who served as his campaign chairman, faces the same charges, plus seven counts of perjury for allegedly signing fraudulent campaign finance reports.

Catherine Cicoria had been scheduled to go on trial with her husband, but she disappeared Sept. 29 and is being sought by authorities.

Nevin described to the jury four ways the couple allegedly stole $64,324 from the campaign committee.

In December 1986, as a "personal investment," Nevin said, Anthony Cicoria purchased an office condominium in the Prince George's Plaza Professional Building near Hyattsville.

In arranging for a mortgage loan, he allegedly presented a letter, purportedly from the County Council administrator, stating that the county had agreed to rent the office from Cicoria.

The letter was a fake, Nevin told the jury. He said the county would have violated its charter by renting an office from a council member.

After buying the condominium, Cicoria used it as a district council office, Nevin said. But starting in February 1987, the campaign committee, Citizens for Cicoria, made $33,000 in mortgage payments for the office, Nevin said. He said no campaign activity took place there.

Although the mortgage payments were made by the committee, Nevin said, Cicoria and his wife "took the full tax advantage" themselves.

He told the jurors that Anthony Cicoria also stole thousands of dollars in campaign contributions, claiming they were repayments for personal loans he made to his campaign.

No such loans had been made, Nevin said. He also charged that Cicoria and his wife directly pocketed campaign contributions.

The prosecutor also said Catherine Cicoria wrote several campaign committee checks to herself, and accounted for them on finance reports as being payments for campaign mailing expenses.

Nevin said investigators recovered several postal receipts from the campaign committee, bearing various sets of initials, supposedly of postal clerks to whom the money was paid.

He said a State Police handwriting specialist who examined 21 different sets of the initials determined that 17 were written by the same person, and three others were written by a second person.

"We aren't able to identify" who wrote the initials, Nevin told the jury. Then he glanced at Cicoria. "But we do know who ran Citizens for Cicoria. We do know who maintained the records."