Zachary resident Richard G. Boyette was sentenced to more than four years in prison Thursday in Baton Rouge after admitting that he looted the tire company he served as chief accounting officer.

“His (Boyette’s) crimes were against all our employees and our families as well,” Mike Bueche, president of Commercial Tire of Louisiana Inc. in Baker, told U.S. District Judge James J. Brady.

“We were forced to lay off people,” Bueche added. “We had to cut costs to stay alive. It was a terrible time … having to make those hard decisions.”

Bueche glanced over his shoulder toward Boyette as he said: “You chose to betray us.”

Bueche added that Boyette once “was well thought of as a Christian man.” But Boyette’s crimes, Bueche said, proved he is “just a crook and a thief who has earned his way to prison.”

Boyette pleaded guilty in September to one count of mail fraud and admitted that he stole more than $400,000 from Commercial Tire.

Brady, however, said a pre-sentence investigation revealed the actual loss was more than $1.2 million.

Karl J. Koch, Boyette’s attorney, told the judge his client’s embezzlement of company funds was “an aberration from the rest of his life.” Koch asked Brady to ignore sentencing guidelines and grant lenience to a man who “will not do well in prison.”

Boyette, 48, told Brady: “I can assure you I will never be in this courtroom with you again.”

Boyette also told the judge he wanted money for a better life, adding, “I thought it (fraud) was an easy way to get it.

“It’s a sin,” Boyette said. “I do apologize.”

“Where’d the money go?” Brady asked.

“I blew it all,” Boyette replied.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan A. Stevens asked the judge to impose a prison term.

“It’s a crime that spanned eight years,” Stevens said. “The $1.2 million loss … that’s actual real dollars that Mr. Boyette stole.”

As a result of the FBI’s investigation, Boyette admitted in September that he wrote fraudulent payroll checks to himself and created false entries in company records to show the stolen money was paid to other Commercial Tire employees.

U.S. Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux Jr. noted in a written statement after the hearing that Boyette also distributed fraudulent tax records that indicated other employees received the missing money.

“You certainly betrayed the trust that was placed in you,” Brady told Boyette.

The judge then sentenced Boyette to 51 months in federal prison and ordered him to repay Commercial Tire $1,283,151.

By Brady’s order, Boyette must report to federal prison by 2 p.m. on Feb. 11.

In addition to Baker, Commercial Tire has offices in Hammond and Scott, which is near Lafayette.

Mike Kimbrell, part-owner and general manager, said after the hearing that Commercial Tire will survive the problems caused by Boyette.

“It’s been really tough,” Kimbrell said. “But we’re holding on. We’re going to be OK.”