Washington lobbyist Nicholas J. Bush was given a 41-month prison sentence yesterday after admitting he stole more than $3 million from his former employer, money that prosecutors said was used to buy a second home, island property in Canada and other luxuries.

Although he gave Bush the maximum term under federal sentencing guidelines, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan complained that penalties are too lax on white-collar criminals. He said Bush deserved more time for embezzling so much in a 16-year period.

Sullivan also ordered Bush to make $3.3 million in restitution to the Natural Gas Supply Association and to pay $268,000 in back federal taxes.

Bush, 54, who has been in a halfway house since he pleaded guilty last summer to mail fraud and tax evasion charges, said he regretted his actions and any "humiliation and embarrassment" he caused the organization.

Several of Bush's former employees turned out for the sentencing. Jodee Jackson, a bookkeeper who discovered the crime, told the judge that Bush enriched himself while he was cutting staff and denying pay increases and holiday bonuses to deserving employees. "He has hurt and disappointed us deeply," she said. Bush was the petroleum trade group's president and link to Capitol Hill. He used his control over the association's operations to steal money, even though he was well-paid--he had a $300,000 salary and unlimited expenses--the employees said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Virginia Cheatham said Bush created an elaborate trail of supporting documents to conceal his thefts, which came to light in February at the time of his ouster.

Bush eventually acknowledged to the FBI that he submitted false expenses for lobbying and other services that supposedly were provided by three consultants: James W. O. Rogers, a Colorado real estate agent; James Rosebush, former chief of staff to Nancy Reagan; and Kenneth Duberstein, a lobbyist and former chief of staff to President Ronald Reagan. The three men had no idea that Bush was cashing in on their names, Cheatham said.

Defense attorney William J. Murphy attributed Bush's actions to family turmoil, work pressures and emotional troubles. So far Bush has arranged to turn over $874,000 from the sale of property and the surrender of pension and retirement benefits.