TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A convicted sex offender, who became a fixture in recent years at political and community events around Tampa, entered a plea deal Thursday on charges he failed to properly register as a sex offender with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

It’s a scandal that reached the mayor’s office and led to a police officer’s resignation.

Tampa police began investigating John Ring Jr. in March 2023 after receiving a tip he used an Italian name to hide his sex offender status. Ring’s defense attorney, Anthony Rickman said his client had no intentions of concealing his criminal past when using the name Giovanni “Gio” Fucarino.

The 52-year-old Ybor City businessman served time in state prison related to a 2010 conviction for unlawful sexual activity with a minor.

“I’m just curious, when did you decide and why did you decide to go by Giovanni,” a Tampa Police Department detective asked him during an interview before his arrest.

“The truth is, I’ve always been known as Giovanni Fucarino,” Ring replied.

Through a records request with the State Attorney’s Office, 8 On Your Side obtained the audio of TPD detectives interviewing Ring at his office in the Italian Club in Ybor City.

Police arrested him for failing to register his Instagram account, phone number and business address, as required by state sex offender laws.

“I’ve been overly worried,” Ring told the detectives. “I consult with — I meet with the mayor on a regular basis. I meet with Chief Bercaw on a regular basis.”

A spokesperson for Mayor Jane Castor said she was “as shocked about his real identity as everyone else and learned about it the day before his arrest.”

In a statement to News Channel 8, City of Tampa Communications Director Adam Smith also said the mayor never had any meetings of phone calls with Ring, but she would see him at public events and he was one of the many co-hosts for her re-election kickoff party at Hotel Haya in Ybor City.

“I’m terrified about the outlash of who sees what’s going on,” Ring said in the interview.

An internal Tampa police investigation found that a Master Police Officer lied about knowing Ring’s real identity and sex offender status long before his arrest.

“Kind of kept it to myself cause I was shocked and surprised,” the officer told detectives in March. That officer resigned in May 2023.

“You talk about that officer knowing who he was, multiple officers knew who he was,” Rickman said. “Multiple officers had his cell phone number, they knew his office address.”

Rickman said his client never had nefarious intentions when using the name “Gio” Fucarino.

“Gio is a proud Italian-American,” Rickman said. “He used the name Fucarino, which is a family name. Gio is short for John. It’s a name that he’s used throughout his entire life.”

Ring pleaded guilty to one count in exchange for prosecutors dropping the other two. The judge sentenced him to 36 months probation with the condition he complies with all sex offender requirements.