A former top official at New York City's Department of Housing Preservation and Development was sentenced to three years in prison Wednesday for taking bribes despite his efforts to make amends by serving as a cooperating witness for the government.

Wendell Walters, 52, pleaded guilty to taking $2.5 million in bribes from contractors and developers on affordable housing projects. He wore a wire after he was caught, testified against alleged co-conspirators and was credited by prosecutors with providing "substantial assistance" over four years.

But U.S. District Judge Nina Gershon in Brooklyn said Walters' bribe-taking went on for more than a decade and was not an aberration.

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"These crimes infected a significant part of an important city agency devoted to providing housing to low-income New Yorkers," she said. "That someone so high up would have acted as he did encourages public cynicism and mistrust."

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Walters, a former Iona College basketball player who was an assistant commissioner in the housing agency, asked for community service and no jail time, but the agency's current commissioner, Vicki Been, asked Gershon to impose a harsh sentence of up to 16 years.

Gershon also ordered $2.5 million in restitution, to be satisfied by Walters forfeiting his home in Harlem, and required Walters to do 500 hours of community service when he is released.