A former New York University whiz kid who posed as a Turkish heir and persuaded sophisticated investors to pour millions into a nonexistent hedge fund was sentenced Wednesday to 3 1/2 years in prison.

Hakan Yalincak, 22, who has already served 20 months, needs the time in prison to reflect and find his "moral compass," U.S. District Court Judge Janet Bond Arterton said.

"It would appear the majority of his life was spent engaged in fraud," said Arterton, who ordered him to pay $4.18 million in restitution.

Yalincak, who pleaded guilty last year to bank and wire fraud, acknowledged in court Wednesday that he did play a pivotal role in the scheme and pledged to work on paying the restitution.

"I made significant errors of judgment," he said. "If I could go back and take back what I've done I'd do it in a heartbeat."

His attorney had asked for a sentence of 20 months that he has already spent in prison as well as home confinement and restitution.

Yalincak's mother, Ayferafet Yalincak, 52, was sentenced last month to two years in prison after she pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with the scheme.

The elder Yalincak said in court papers that she had been "bent to the will" of her brilliant college-age son and played a limited role in the fraud.

She purchased, or had purchased for her, a $56,000 Mercedes Benz and a $51,000 diamond ring with investors' funds, and lived in a house with an annual rental fee of $77,000 that came from investors' funds, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors say Hakan Yalincak charmed his way into the exclusive world of Greenwich high finance by posing as an heir to a wealthy Turkish family, shuttled counterfeit checks across the world and brokered deals with a Kuwaiti financier.

Authorities say the Yalincaks also gave $1.25 million of investor money as a down payment on a $21 million donation to NYU as a way to cast themselves as wealthy philanthropists in hopes of luring more investment.

Yalincak's attorney, Bernard Grossberg, criticized NYU for accepting the donation, saying it involved a check written on an investor's account. An NYU spokesman said Yalincak has continually tried to assign blame to everyone but himself and that NYU was another one of his victims.

"All the recent remarks from Mr. Yalincak's representatives appear to us to be designed to obscure what he has done, to try to induce others to overlook his regrettable pattern of behavior, and to try to shift blame to others," NYU spokesman John Beckman said.

Following their sentences, both Yalincaks face possible deportation to Turkey. Hakan Yalincak has been free on bond and is scheduled to return to prison May 8.