Felipe Sixto was sentenced Wednesday to 2 1/2 years hard time for bilking the Center for a Free Cuba out of $579,000, overcharging the organization while purchasing radios and flashlights with federal money.
Sixto told U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton that he "wanted to provide a lifestyle for my family I could not afford."
Walton compared Sixto to Bernie Madoff, saying both wanted a lifestyle "far above" what they deserved.
"The mentality that brings you before this court is the same," Walton said.
In addition to 30 months in prison, Sixto was hit with three years supervised release and fined $10,000.
His lawyer said 90 percent of the money had been paid back to the center, with some from a mortgage that Sixto's parents took out on their house.
Walton also criticized Sixto for taking a job in the White House, saying employees like Sixto make people question the honesty and integrity of government officials.
Sixto quit his job as a special assistant to President Bush for intergovernmental affairs in early 2008 after learning that legal action was being taken against him.