BALTIMORE, JULY 20 -- Paul W. Ottinger, a retired Maryland Circuit Court judge arrested last spring after disappearing for two months under a false name, pleaded guilty today in federal court to falsifying information for a $60,000 loan he received in the months before his disappearance.
Ottinger, 72, a longtime Hagerstown lawyer, also pleaded guilty to a federal mail fraud count in which he was charged with keeping a $7,500 car accident insurance payment intended for one of his clients.
He faces a possible maximum sentence of seven years in prison and up to $500,000 in fines. He will be sentenced by U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz in about six weeks.
Showing little emotion, Ottinger entered guilty pleas to one count in each of two indictments against him. Nine other counts involving thousands of dollars in additional funds he allegedly obtained fraudulently were dropped under a plea bargain with prosecutors.
Ottinger, according to prosecutors and the indictments, went into hiding in February with more than $50,000 in unauthorized car accident insurance payments and $150,000 in bank loans he obtained by listing as collateral lucrative properties that he did not own.
The retired judge weighed more than 300 pounds at time of his disappearance, prosecutors said, but he went on a crash diet and dyed his hair to disguise his identity while he lived in seclusion in Gettysburg and York, Pa., just over the Maryland line from Hagerstown. Today in court, he appeared to have lost a great deal of weight, and his hair, a dingy yellow at the time of his arrest last April, was gray.
Using the name H. Edwin Robinson, he first lived in a ramshackle farmhouse in Gettysburg, then moved to a sparsely furnished apartment in York where FBI agents arrested him.
Prosecutors have not said whether any of the $200,000 he allegedly took into hiding has been recovered, but Assistant U.S. Attorney Carmina S. Hughes said today she would ask for an unspecified amount of restitution when Ottinger is sentenced.