Rapfogel, 59, apologized for "harming the organization that I worked so hard to build." But Gary Fishman, a lawyer with the state Attorney General's office, said Rapfogel has tried to minimize his role in a long-running insurance fraud and to mislead investigators.
When he pleaded guilty in April to grand larceny, money laundering and tax fraud, Rapfogel agreed to repay $3 million. Fishman said during Wednesday's hearing in state court in Manhattan that he has done so.
Rapfogel left the court in handcuffs to begin serving his sentence.
Fishman said Rapfogel, who was paid $340,000 a year as the charity's chief executive officer, was supposed to be safeguarding money donated to help New York's poor.
"Instead, over a 20-year period of time, he conspired with others to steal over $9 million and personally stole $3 million from the people that needed it most to benefit himself and his lifestyle," Fishman said.
Rapfogel had political connections, including a long relationship with New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who represents a Manhattan district. Rapfogel's wife, Judy, was Silverstein's chief of staff.