Anthony J. Cicoria, a self-styled political maverick heavily favored to win a third term on the Prince George's County Council, was convicted yesterday of stealing $65,324 in campaign contributions during the 1980s and lying on his state income tax returns.

Cicoria, 50, a former trophy shop owner who endeared himself to voters in his inner-Beltway council district by fostering an image as a political outsider, is to be sentenced Dec. 12 in Upper Marlboro. The jury in the case, which heard 12 days of arguments and testimony from 49 witnesses, deliberated less than three hours before convicting him of all five charges: one count of felony theft, one count of conspiracy and three counts of filing false income tax returns.

The most serious charge, theft, is punishable by up to 15 years in state prison. "We will ask for incarceration," prosecutor Scott Nevin said. But he declined to say how much jail time he would seek.

Cicoria, who showed no emotion as the verdicts were read, declined to comment on the case or on his political plans.

The Maryland Attorney General's Office has said that under the state Constitution, Cicoria must be suspended from his current council term upon sentencing. But if he defeats his token Republican opponent in Tuesday's general election, officials said, state law would allow him to take office for a new term in January, provided his conviction is under appeal.

It is not clear whether Cicoria could take office if he were imprisoned Dec. 12 and unable to appear in January to be sworn in.

Circuit Court Judge Robert C. Nalley allowed Cicoria to remain free on $25,000 bond until his sentencing, although Nevin had asked the judge to jail the council member out of concern that he may flee.

Cicoria's wife and campaign chairman, Catherine, was to have gone on trial with her husband, but failed to appear in court and is being sought by authorities. Nevin told the judge yesterday that he believes her disappearance in late September was part of "an organized plan" involving her husband.

Nevin noted that defense attorneys asked Nalley this year to grant separate trials. "They were aware that a lot of evidence in this case has Mrs. Cicoria's name all over it," Nevin said outside the courtroom. "They were going to try to pin a lot of this on the wife."

Because such a strategy would be difficult in a joint trial, Nevin said, he believes Cicoria encouraged his wife to disappear. The prosecutor told Nalley he is concerned that Cicoria may now join his wife.

"I'll confess to harboring some {suspicions} myself," the judge said. But rather than jail Cicoria, he warned him in strong terms not to leave Maryland without permission, except to visit his attorney's office in the District, and to report weekly to a probation officer.

"Mr. Cicoria, I don't intend to play games with you regarding this," Nalley said. "If {probation officials} tell you to be there at 9 a.m., then 9:17 a.m. won't cut it . . . . A phone call to me or to Mr. Nevin will result in a warrant for your arrest, on any complaint by a probation agent that you were 10 minutes late."

He then ordered Cicoria to be fingerprinted and photographed by the county Sheriff's Department. Accompanied by deputies and attorneys, and surrounded by television cameras, Cicoria walked silently along Main Street with his hands in his pockets to a sheriff's office a few blocks away.

Despite losing his bid to have Cicoria jailed, Nevin left the courtroom jubilant. "We heard testimony from his dedicated followers, and we understand how they feel about Mr. Cicoria," he said. "But the evidence showed a side of Mr. Cicoria the public was not aware of. And we're pleased that the citizens of Prince George's County can now see what was going on."

Cicoria, a former state delegate elected to the council in 1982, was accused of using about half the $64,324 to make mortgage and property tax payments on an office condominium that he bought as a personal investment, according to Nevin. Prosecution witnesses said most of the rest of the money was taken from the campaign fund through phony loans, fraudulent expenses and forgery.

During the trial, which began Oct. 9, the state introduced 273 exhibits, including dozens of charts and graphs, and bundles of bank statements, loan documents, campaign finance reports and canceled checks.

In his his hour-long closing statement, Nevin called Cicoria a thief caught in "a web of lies" after siphoning the money out of his campaign organization, Citizens for Cicoria, from 1984 to 1989. "There's no difference between this man, the defendant, the thief, and a bum in the street," he told the jury.

But Cicoria's attorney, Robert Mance, described his client as a dedicated public servant fighting unwarranted criminal charges.

He called the state's allegations "only a theory" and said Nevin had been unable to prove his case beyond a reasonable doubt.

"What the state has done is put before you a theory that we liken to a house of cards," Mance said. "And we suggest the house of cards began to shake at its very foundation with the state's first witness."

Mance declined to comment after the verdicts. Jury members referred questions to the foreman, who also declined to comment.

According to witnesses, about $33,000 of the $64,324 was used by Cicoria and his wife to make mortgage and property tax payments on the office condominium they bought near Hyattsville in late 1986.

Mance described the $33,000 as rent paid to the couple by Cicoria's campaign committee, and argued that the payments were proper because the office was sometimes used for campaign-related activities.

But the prosecution contended that Cicoria used the space almost exclusively as a district office for constituent services, not for any meaningful campaign-related work. And while Cicoria was using campaign funds to pay for the office, witnesses said, he was lying on his Maryland tax returns by writing off the payments as if he had used his own money.

Cicoria, whose district stretches from Takoma Park to University Park to Colmar Manor, also was charged with taking about $9,000 in repayments of loans he never made to the campaign. He was accused in some instances of forging the campaign treasurer's signature on checks. He also was charged with taking about $16,000 in reimbursement for expenses he never incurred.

Catherine Cicoria, 52, is accused of taking part in those schemes, sometimes more actively than her husband.