A federal judge sentenced a former Microsoft Corp. employee on Friday to four years in prison for illegally selling millions of dollars of company software.

Finn W. Contini, 37, of Redmond, pleaded guilty in January to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and four counts of money laundering.

He admitted ordering 2,700 pieces of software worth about $7 million through Microsoft's internal ordering program, which he then sold for a personal profit of $2.3 million.

Prosecutors argued that Contini recruited others to take part in the scheme.

"We dispute the characterization he was a ringleader in any way," Contini's attorney, Ralph Hurvitz, said Friday.

Three other employees were sentenced earlier this year. Robert Howdeshell, 40 of Puyallup, was sentenced to two years and three months in prison. Alyson Clark, 38, of Normandy Park, and Christine Hendrickson, 34, of Bothell, each got five months in prison and five months of home confinement.

According to prosecutors, they used an Internet-based system that allows Microsoft employees to order software for business purposes at no personal cost. They then manipulated the system to prevent e-mail notices of their orders from being sent to their supervisors or managers. Microsoft said it made changes to make the system more secure in mid-2002.

As part of a plea agreement reached earlier this year, Contini agreed to forfeit more than $1.7 million in assets he acquired with money from the sales scheme, including four properties in Washington and Oregon, a 2003 Toyota Highlander, a 2002 Honda Civic, silver and gold coins, and more than $188,000 in bank accounts and currency.

Contini worked at Microsoft from September 1999 until he resigned in February 2002.

In addition to prison time, U.S. District Judge John Coughenour ordered Contini serve three years of supervised release and pay $7.1 million in restitution.