Massage parlor owner Louis Michael Parrish, convicted last month of operating a major Washington-area prostitution ring, was sentenced to five years in prison yesterday after telling a federal judge, "I know now that I should have followed another path in my life."

Parrish will be eligible for parole after serving one-third of his sentence.

Parrish, 32, stood before U.S. District Court Judge Oren R. Lewis in an Alexandria courtroom, flanked by two of his top associates who also were sentenced yesterday.

"I realized my problems are great," Parrish said, his voice faltering. "I also realized I must face up to them."

Parrish, who ran a lucrative Alexandria-based interstate network of massage parlors and "outcall" masseuse dispatch services from 1975 to 1978, was convicted March 22 and 23 of nine counts of conspiracy, interstate racketeering and prostitution.

He received the maximum sentence of 45 years in prison, five years on each count. But Lewis yesterday ordered the sentences to run concurrently, which means Parrish's maximum prison time is five years.

Lewis, who said he doesn't believe in "criminal laws to make money," did not impose any fine.

"You've got plenty of time to get on the right track," Lewis told the grim-faced Parrish. "And I hope you do."

Larry J Wadino, 31, described by prosecutors as Parrish's "alter ego" and business manager, was convicted last month of four counts of conspiracy and prostitution and was sentenced yesterday to three years in prison on each count, to be served concurrently.

Wadino also must serve one-third of his sentence before being considered for parole.

Kathy Lynn Caldwell, 25, who ran one of Parrish's telephone "outcall" services, was convicted in March of conspiracy and prostitution. She was sentenced by Lewis to an indeterminate prison term of up to four years under a federal law applied to those 25 and under.

Caldwell, who stood shaking and crying before the judge, was comforted by Wadino, who held her arm throughout the 30-minute proceeding.

Despite strong objections by U.S. Attorney William B. Cummings, who said Parrish and Wadino posed "a danger to the community," all three were released on personal bond pending apppeal of their convictions.

One federal prosecutor, who declined to be named, said the government had expected Parrish to receive a stiffer sentence. The prosecutor said it was unusual that Parrish, whose massage parlor empire allegedly grossed nearly $1 million a year, was not subjected to a heavy fine.

Defense Attorney Jacob Stein told the judge that Parrish described by the FBI as a reclusive businessman who drove a Mercedes and carried a 357-magnum, is currently employed at his father's auto repair shop in Manassas.

The two-year FBI investigation of Parrish, headed by special agent Charles Bartles III who sat in the courtroom yesterday, resulted in the largest interstate prostitution case ever prosecuted in Northern Virginia, according to authorities.

Eight former Parrish employes pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering each and agreed to cooperate with the government by testifying before a federal grand jury which is still looking into possible corruption in Allexandria.

Parrish, Wadino and Caldwell gave sworn grand jury testimony earlier this week.

"That doesn't mean you get a halo," Lewis told the three defendants yesterday after sentencing.

Lewis also warned the three not to speak with reporters. "You can write your memoirs later," the judge said, adding that he would revoke their bond if the three associated with anyone in the massage parlor business, went to any "pot parties" or hung around "Georgetown or 14th (Street) and Park Road."

"Do a little normal playing," said Lewis. "Go to church. It'll do you good."