Former Bush Aide Sentenced to 30 Months in Prison

By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 18, 2009; 11:43 AM

A 29-year-old former Bush administration aide was sentenced today to 2 1/2 years in federal prison for stealing nearly $600,000 from a nonprofit group that promotes democracy in Cuba.

Felipe E. Sixto of Miami pleaded guilty last year in U.S. District Court in the District to stealing from a federally funded program. Today, U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton called the crime an "elaborate scheme" that badly damaged the nonprofit group, the Center for a Free Cuba, where Sixto worked from 2003 through July 2007. He continued stealing from the center after he switched jobs to become an associate director for intergovernmental affairs at the White House, prosecutors said.

"It is bad enough to steal, but when you steal from an organization that you say you care about, that makes it even more troubling," Walton said.

Sixto, who is of Cuban descent, apologized for his conduct, saying "I make no excuses for my actions." He resigned from the White House in March.

Sixto joined the District-based center in 2003 and became its chief of staff. In 2004 or early 2005, prosecutors said, Sixto began to research the cost of radios and flashlights that the center provided to residents of Cuba. Sixto concealed his identity, bought radios and flashlights and then sold them to the center at inflated costs, prosecutors said.

In all, prosecutors said, he netted $579,274 in overpriced flashlights and radios. Sixto's attorney, Kathleen E. Voelkler, said his family has helped him repay that money with interest.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Vasu B. Muthyala urged Walton to give Sixto prison time. Sixto used the stolen funds to buy a car and invest in real estate and restaurants, Muthyala wrote in court papers.

Once the theft was uncovered, the center temporarily lost access to grants issued by the U.S. Agency for International Development. As a result, the center was forced to cut jobs, slash salaries and move to less expensive office space, Muthyala wrote.

"This case is more than an employee simply stealing from his employer," Muthyala wrote in court papers. "It is about a man who over the course of years engaged in an intricate scheme to defraud an organization chartered to help people who were of his own heritage."

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