A defense attorney and aspiring sports agent from Saco was sentenced Tuesday to two years in federal prison for laundering $177,500 in drug money.

Gary Prolman, 52, spoke at length during his sentencing in U.S. District Court in Portland, breaking down in tears several times.

“I have an overwhelming grief I’ll have to live with in perpetuity,” he said, apologizing to family members and other supporters, many of whom were seated behind him.

Prolman was charged with money laundering earlier this year but had been under investigation since late 2012. Earlier that year, he had entered into a business relationship with a man named David Jones, who was launching a music and clothing line business but also was a drug trafficker, according to federal court documents.

Prolman maintained that he was not aware of Jones’ drug dealing initially, even though he did admit to regularly purchasing cocaine from one of Jones’ partners, Michael Paul.

In addition to providing legal assistance to Jones for his music and clothing businesses, Prolman persuaded Jones to invest in his own side business, GNP Sports Inc. For several years, Prolman had been trying to establish himself as an agent for professional hockey players and had signed three clients by mid-2012.

On Tuesday, Prolman said he was “on the cusp of truly making it” as an agent and just needed a little more money to bridge the gap to when he could close his law practice and become an agent full time. Although he had signed players, none had made it to the National Hockey League, which means their salaries were still relatively small and, consequently, so was Prolman’s share.

That’s where Jones came in, agreeing to invest up to $250,000 in Prolman’s business. The two also purchased property in Saco together, although Jones’ name was taken off the sale agreement after the bank asked for his financial information.

Prolman, who pleaded guilty April 29 as part of a plea agreement in the case, said Tuesday that he should have known better than to take Jones’ money, but he did not admit that he was aware of where the money came from.

“I have to be one of the stupidest people in the world,” he said. “But I wanted to believe what Mr. Jones was selling me.”

The relationship between Prolman and Jones came to light after Jones was arrested in Kansas in September 2012 while driving more than 100 pounds of marijuana from California to Maine.

Before that trip, Jones and another drug associate, Raymond Paquette, sought out Prolman to help them change small bills into large bills to make the money easier to transport cross country, according to the court documents. Prolman agreed to help.

After Jones was caught, he called his girlfriend back in Maine and told her to find a backpack in his pickup truck that contained about $90,000 and bring it to Prolman. The attorney then took $50,000 of that money as the latest installment of Jones’ investment in Prolman’s company.

Before issuing the sentence, U.S. District Judge George Singal said he was troubled because he didn’t believe Prolman was taking full responsibility for his criminal activity. He said he didn’t believe Prolman’s statements that he was unaware of Jones’ source of income.

“He didn’t win all of his jury trials but four by being a dummy,” Singal said, referring to a claim that Prolman had made earlier about his success as a defense attorney.

Peter DeTroy, Prolman’s attorney, agreed that his client has accepted responsibility only in “bits and pieces,” but said that’s how it happens for some. Not everyone “comes to Jesus” all at once, DeTroy said.

Daniel Perry, the federal prosecutor, said a big factor in the case was how Prolman took steps to “hide the identity and character” of Jones’ money by breaking it up into smaller amounts for deposit.

Specifically, he always deposited less than $10,000, which is the threshold for federal reporting requirements. In fact, Prolman tried once to deposit all $50,000 into the bank, but when told by the teller that he would have to fill out a disclosure form, he asked for the money back.

Prolman said Tuesday that the period of time in 2012 was the toughest in his life. He was using cocaine regularly and struggling to balance his busy law practice – he had recently begun representing several alleged clients of infamous Zumba instructor and prostitute Alexis Wright – with his dream of being a sports agent.

Once the federal investigation was launched, things got even worse.

“Two years ago, I was so despondent I would have taken my own life if I owned a gun,” he said.

Prolman must report to a federal penitentiary in New Hampshire by Jan. 14, 2015. After his release, he must submit to two additional years of supervision.

He has already repaid the $177,500 he admitted to laundering.

His legal career is likely over. Earlier this year, the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar suspended Prolman’s license to practice law indefinitely.