A former Bush White House aide was sentenced to 2½ years in prison on Wednesday for stealing nearly $600,000 from a government-funded program that promotes democracy in Cuba.
Felipe Sixto apologized for stealing from the Center for a Free Cuba, telling U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton that in addition to his own greed and selfishness, he "wanted to provide a lifestyle for my family I could not afford."
That argument from Sixto did not sway Walton, who compared him to Bernie Madoff, who has pleaded guilty to ripping off thousands of investors of billions of dollars.
While the situations are different, Walton said Sixto, like Madoff, wanted a lifestyle "far above" what he deserved.
"The mentality that brings you before this court is the same," Walton said.
Walton sentenced him to 30 months in prison, three years supervised release and fined him $10,000. Sixto had asked for home confinement or probation.
Sixto pleaded guilty Dec. 19 to theft. He acknowledged overcharging the organization more than $579,000 when purchasing radios and flashlights with federal funds. His lawyer said 90 percent of the money had been paid back to the center, with some of it coming from a mortgage that Sixto's parents took out on their house.
Walton also criticized Sixto for accepting a job in the White House, knowing that he had been stealing from the center, an independent institution that receives millions of dollars in USAID funds for rent, travel and equipment such as shortwave radios and laptops.
Sixto quit his job as a special assistant to President George W. Bush for intergovernmental affairs almost a year ago after learning that the center was beginning legal action against him.
Walton said having employees like Sixto inside the White House makes people question the honesty and integrity of government officials.