BALTIMORE, OCT. 21 -- Retired Western Maryland circuit court judge Paul W. Ottinger, depicted in federal court today as a heavy drinker and compulsive gambler, was sentenced to 5 1/2 years' imprisonment for fraudulently obtaining more than $173,000 in loans and insurance claims.

The graying 72-year-old Hagerstown lawyer, who had disappeared, disguised himself and remained in hiding for more than two months before his arrest last spring, showed no emotion as U.S. District Judge J. Fredrick Motz imposed the sentence.

"I regret what I have done," Ottinger said before being led away by federal marshals.

Court observers could not recall any other retired or active Maryland circuit court judge who has been convicted in federal court in recent years.

Ottinger's sentencing comes after a brief but checkered odyssey earlier this year when, according to law enforcement officials, he fled to Pennsylvania, dyed his hair, changed his name and went on a crash diet to lose some of his 300 pounds.

Months earlier, according to law enforcement officials and court records, he used his credentials as a former judge and lawyer to borrow $122,873 from two Hagerstown banks, listing as collateral valuable properties he did not own, and stole an additional $50,250 in car accident insurance payments intended for his clients.

The money was used to help pay off various debts, according to Ottinger's attorney, Assistant Public Defender Larry A. Nathans, including debts from horse racing and lotteries.

From late January to April, he lived in seclusion, first in a ramshackle farmhouse near Gettysburg just over the Pennsylvania line and later in a sparsely furnished apartment in York where FBI agents arrested him April 21.

He has been jailed since that time. In July, he pleaded guilty to two fraud counts in an indictment containing 11 counts.

Although the other nine counts were dismissed, Judge Motz ordered Ottinger today to make full restitution to all the banks and insurance claimants named in the indictment, a total of $173,123. Motz also ordered Ottinger to undergo treatment for alcoholism and compulsive gambling while in prison.

Motz brushed aside defense pleas for leniency, saying the crimes were "extremely serious . . . . {Ottinger} abused the trust of clients."

Nathans said Ottinger's drinking and gambling problems, plus the costs of a reelection campaign he ran to retain his judgeship in the late 1970s, had created "extremely heavy debts" and he went into hiding as a "desperate act."

Ottinger faces state charges similar to those in federal court and is scheduled for trial in Hagerstown later this year.

Ottinger's wife Joan also faces forgery charges in Hagerstown in connection with her husband's scheme. Federal prosecutors said earlier this year that she also lied to FBI agents to conceal her husband's whereabouts when he went into hiding.

Court officials said today they do not know if any of the money taken by Ottinger is left. "We haven't found a cash hoard," said one law enforcement official.

At the sentencing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Carmina Hughes said Ottinger still has some resources, including about $3,000 a month in pensions, "most of it tax-free."