Longtime Baton Rouge restaurateur Jamal M. Roman was sentenced Thursday to more than four years in federal prison for defrauding state and local governments of $726,476 in sales taxes.

Roman, 51, admitted he funneled $700,000 of that money to Syria.

The naturalized U.S. citizen apologized to Chief U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson for his actions.

“I feel regret for dishonoring this country,” Roman said. “America has lived up to my dreams.”

Attorneys Frank Holthaus and John McLindon asked for leniency on Roman’s behalf.

Roman added: “The life for which I worked has been ruined by my past decisions. I took advantage of the system.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Corey Amundson said: “He (Roman) did come to this country. He’s profited significantly from that.”

Amundson added that Roman repaid his adopted country by bribing tax auditors, filing false sales tax records and maintaining fictitious payroll records to covertly build a fortune and ship it overseas.

“Mr. Roman provided all the bribes,” Amundson added.

Jackson then told Roman: “I accept your expression of remorse, Mr. Roman. I think you’re very serious and very contrite.”

But the judge added: “There was just no reason for this.

“There’s no excuse,” Jackson said. “It’s intolerable, what you did.”

The judge sentenced Roman to 53 months in federal prison and two years of post-prison supervision by federal investigators.

Jackson ordered Roman to pay restitution of $348,871 to city-parish tax authorities in Baton Rouge; $297,989 to the Louisiana Department of Revenue; $56,000 to the Louisiana Workforce Commission, and $23,616 to tax authorities in Ascension Parish.

The judge also fined Roman $20,000 before ordering him to report to federal prison on Nov. 14.

Earlier, Roman admitted he concealed $7 million in combined sales from May 2001 until March 2006 at Papacito’s Restaurant in Prairieville and four Baton Rouge businesses.

The Baton Rouge eateries were Roman’s Café on Perkins Road, Roman’s Mediterranean Restaurant on Airline Highway, Roman’s Lebanese Greek Market on Government Street and Papacito’s Restaurant on Bluebonnet Boulevard.