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ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP/CBS) – The former mayor of Allentown has been sentenced to 15 years in prison on federal corruption charges.

Ed Pawlowski, the 53-year-old Democrat, was convicted in March on dozens of charges that he traded city contracts for campaign cash. Prosecutors say Pawlowski strong-armed city vendors to contribute to his failed campaigns for governor and U.S. Senate, orchestrating a scheme to rig city contracts for legal, engineering, technology and construction work.

“Pawlowski has now, as a result of this sentence, gone from running a city with 120,000 citizens to becoming a citizen of the federal prison system for a long time, for 15 years,” said U.S. Attorney Lou Lappen.

Pawlowski denied wrongdoing and has vowed to appeal his conviction. Ten others involved in the case previously pleaded guilty, including other Allentown officials and business people seeking contracts with the city.

Pawlowski was also ordered to pay back over $93,000 in restitution to the city of Allentown.

The defense called more than a dozen witnesses to the stand as they all asked leniency for Pawlowski. They wanted the judge to allow him to stay out of prison and with his family until his appeal is ruled on.

Pawlowski told the judge before his sentencing Tuesday he chose a life of public service because he “wanted to make a difference.” He says he “worked hard, night and day, to try to bring this city back.”

Pawlowski was denied bail. After sentencing, he was handcuffed and taken from the courtroom.

“He’s very disappointed. We thought 15 years was clearly excessive for what he did,” said Pawlowski’s defense attorney Jack McMahon. “We knew he was going to be incarcerated, we knew he was going to get a substantial incarceration, but that type of time was simply cruel and not needed to address the issues.”

Pawlowski led Pennsylvania’s third-largest city for 12 years, winning re-election while under indictment. He began a fourth term in January but resigned a week after his conviction.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)