The former No. 3 official of the U.S. Marshal's Service was sentenced to three years in prison yesterday for accepting a $500 bribe to help arrange a prisoner's transfer.

Ellsworth T. Olds, 48, of 8844 Tamar Dr., Columbia, Md., who was employed as the special assistant for minority affairs, pleaded guilty to the charge last month. Court officials said he would probably serve 12 to 16 months of the prison term at a minimum-security prison where he will report within a few days.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Theodore A. Shmanda, of the major crimes division, had asked for a substantial prison term for Olds because among other reasons, the "sense of shame and betrayal" Olds' unlawful conduct "inflicted on the many dedicated men and women of the U.S. Marshal's Service who strive to well serve our criminal justice system."

Olds' conduct surfaced when a drug informant in Philadelphia told federal authorities that a man there had bragged he knew an official in Washington who could "help" defendants in criminal cases, according to court records.

The informant and an undercover agent later met with Olds in Washington at his executive offices in the Marshal's Service headquarters here, where the first of reportedly $1,400 worth of payments were made in an attempt to get a prisoner transferred, the court was told.