A former State Department employee who handled sensitive overseas contracts was sentenced Friday in Alexandria federal court to more than seven years in prison for taking bribes.

From 2012 to 2016, according to prosecutors, Zaldy N. Sabino took at least $521,863 in bribes from Turkish construction magnate Deniz Turkkan, who in return won multimillion-dollar contracts in Iraq, Turkey and Yemen.

“What were you thinking? How do you justify doing that?” U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady said Friday in sentencing Sabino to 87 months. “This is a tragedy for you, for your family, for the government.”

Sabino denied culpability at his trial last year, and prosecutors were unable to directly trace his mysterious influxes of cash to Turkkan. Defense attorneys argued that Turkkan was probably spending his cash on strippers or prostitutes, not bribes, and that Sabino was not the only one involved in these contracts.

“Those things that were said . . . they were not true,” a tearful Sabino said in court Friday.

But investigators showed that Sabino was repeatedly depositing money in his bank account just after Turkkan withdrew money from his. Withdrawals were also made from Turkkan’s account near Sabino’s office and home. Meanwhile, Sabino met regularly with Turkkan and his business partners and signed off on lucrative agreements, personally lobbying for some.

“Mr. Sabino was very, very good,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Hanly said in closing arguments. “He did it cleverly, shrewdly.”

The case began when Sabino was renewing his top-secret security clearance in late 2015 and investigators found the suspicious cash deposits. Sabino could not explain the source of the money, which he had not reported as income. And he admitted lying about cash he carried home after a trip to the Philippines.

Sabino’s predecessor in the same position, Steven J. Graves, admitted taking bribes from Turkkan and his company as well. He was sentenced to 15 months in prison.

Turkkan did not immediately return a request for comment.

“Perhaps one day [Turkkan] will be brought to justice,” O’Grady said Friday, telling Sabino the executive “benefited from those contracts in amounts far greater than you did.”