JANESVILLE, Wis. -

A Janesville man convicted of stealing $1.8 million from his employer was sentenced this week to 2-1/2 years in prison, and the judge said he couldn't remember a bigger theft in Rock County in 30 years.

Steven R. Stoikes, 44, used to work for Butters-Fetting, a contractor in Janesville specializing in mechanical and electrical work. Over a period of seven years, he would order more copper tubing than was needed for jobs, and then cut up the excess and sell it for scrap, prosecutors said.

Stoikes sobbed in court Wednesday as he apologized to his family, the Janesville Gazette reported.

"I let them think they raised a thief," he said of his parents. "I damaged the family name."

Rock County Judge James Daley noted that Stoikes was honorably discharged from the military after serving in Operation Desert Storm in the 1990s. But the community expects such a crime to fairly punished, he added.

Daley and prosecutor David O'Leary agreed that they'd never heard of such a large theft in the county's history.

O'Leary asked that Stoikes be sentenced to three years in prison, because Stoikes visited a casino more than 500 times from 2006 to 2012, where he wagered about $24 million and lost more than $3 million.

Public defender Walt Isaacson recommended that Stoikes be sentenced to jail time and probation, noting that his client has been getting treatment for a gambling addiction.