"Welcome back to the United States," U.S. District Judge Dora Irizarry sarcastically greeted Thomas W. Qualls, 43, who was arrested in Montreal in 2009 and finally extradited last week.
Qualls, formerly of Bellmore and Long Beach, disappeared in 2008 on the day summations were scheduled before Irizarry in his trial on charges he defrauded customers of his foreign currency business, conspiracy and obstruction of justice.
He was convicted in absentia of 16 counts, including that he lured investors into what they thought were foreign currency trades. Instead, he stole their money and spent it lavishly on items such as a Caribbean cruise, pet care and payments on a Jaguar sports car.
After fleeing, he was apprehended March 17, 2009, at a Montreal subway station, according to U.S. marshals. But he resisted extradition, and even made a claim for political asylum, Irizarry said. She called that effort "ridiculous."
Court records also indicate that Qualls' parents, who had helped secure his $250,000 bail bond, lost their house in Florida when he fled, and still face the unpaid balance on that bond.
"The defendant put his family members in a very difficult situation," Irizarry said. "His parents . . . had no home to live in as a result."
The judge ordered Qualls held without bail, and set his sentencing on the fraud conviction for Dec. 19. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison on each count.
Qualls pleaded not guilty to the bail-jumping charge, which carries an additional 10 years, but his lawyer and a prosecutor said that charge will be resolved by a plea.