Bill collector is sentenced in $2.5 million bank fraud


,A Virginia bill collector and financial consultant has been ordered to serve to five months in a halfway house, two years of probation and a 19-month suspended sentence for bilking Maryland National Bank out of $2.5 million.

James E. Stuckey, 64, the founder and former president of Pan American Financial Corp in Arlington, Va., received the sentence late yesterday from Judge Frederic N. Smalkin in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Stuckey, who was extradited from Switzerland last fall, went to trial earlier this year. But he entered an Alford plea to one count of interstate transportation of stolen property in June after the trial jury deadlocked on the 14 charges against him and A. Renee Nave, Pan American's former vice president and comptroller.

An Alford plea means that Stuckey did not admit guilt but acknowledged that the government's evidence was strong enough to convict him. That plea saved the government the cost of a retrial.

According to the government's evidence, Stuckey borrowed money from Maryland National on a credit line which enabled him to buy accounts receivable from failing businesses between 1983 and 1987.

When his collections went sour, he falsified reports to Maryland National to hide delinquencies in the accounts receivable so the bank would not insist on repayment of the full credit line.

The interstate transportation charges stemmed from checks that Stuckey and Nave drew on the credit line.

Federal prosecutors Martin S. Himeles Jr. and Jefferson M. Gray dropped the criminal charges against Nave as part of Stuckey's plea bargain.

Smalkin said that if Maryland National officials had watched Stuckey's operation more closely, "they could have or should have deduced that these accounts were rollovers. If they had, the scheme probably wouldn't have gone on for as long as it did."

"I don't think you started out to defraud Maryland National," the judge told Stuckey. "You had the intention of running a legitimate, although risky, business. But the law says thou shalt not steal, and it's appropriate to punish that."

Himeles said yesterday that Stuckey claimed to a federal probation officer before the sentencing that he had given financial advice to the late Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis and several other prominent European businessmen, and that once he had received a plaque for being a presidential adviser.

"Much of what he told the jury at the trial was false, and this new information is all in sufficient doubt," Himeles said.

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