Former football hero Billy Cannon Sr. lost his appeal for leniency in a federal court today and was sentenced to a maximum five years in prison and fined $10,000 for masterminding a $6 million counterfeiting scheme.

He must serve at least one-third of the term before he is eligible to ask for early release.

U.S. District Judge Frank Polozola said he would have liked to sentence Cannon to a longer term, but a plea agreement Cannon reached with federal prosecutors limited the charges against him.

"The court refuses to allow those who have family or fortune or stature in life to commit crimes and receive a slap on the hand," Polozola said.

"I have a simple question before me," said Polozola, who played baseball at LSU. "If the name of the defendant was not Dr. Billy Cannon, what sentence would I impose?"

Cannon, a former Heisman Trophy winner at Louisiana State University and now a Baton Rouge orthodontist, was charged with one count of conspiring to print and distribute $6 million worth of phony $100 bills. He admitted financing the initial engraving and printing scheme, which was hatched on New Year's Day 1980 to help bail Cannon out of a cash problem.

However, he never made a dime from the scheme. He was arrested after trying to sell several million dollars worth of the phony money to a Secret Service undercover agent.

He pleaded guilty to the one count and began cooperating with investigators.