A West Baton Rouge Parish businessman who bilked investors was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in federal prison Wednesday and ordered to pay more than $500,000 in restitution to his victims.

William Todd Cutrer, of Addis, executed the fraud scheme from January 2014 through at least November 2016 while he owned and operated West Baton Rouge Credit Inc., a lending company in Port Allen that made high-interest loans, prosecutors have said.

Cutrer, 52, apologized to his victims, some of whom were in U.S. District Judge John deGravelles' courtroom Wednesday, and promised to someday pay them back. The judge said some of Cutrer's victims trusted him with their life savings and considered him a friend.

Cutrer's attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender Mark Upton, said Cutrer operated his business legitimately for 20 years, but out of desperation did "the wrong thing" in an effort to save the failing business.

Cutrer raised capital for WBRC by obtaining lines of credit from local banks and personally soliciting investments from individual investors. He guaranteed he would pay interest on their investments and that their funds could be redeemed at any time upon written notice, prosecutors said.

Instead of using the funds as promised, Cutrer wrote checks to himself and his family members and made interest payments to prior investors who were due interest on their principal, prosecutors added.

When Cutrer failed to make the payments he owed to his victim investors, he sent them a letter falsely claiming he was having difficulty collecting payments on WBRC's high-interest loans because of the unprecedented August 2016 flood, prosecutors stated.

Cutrer pleaded guilty last October to mail fraud. He must report to prison May 28.

Follow Joe Gyan Jr. on Twitter, @JoeGyanJr.