FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) _ A man who collected $68,000 after claiming a nonexistent domestic partner died in the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison Wednesday.

Patric Ian Henn, who pleaded guilty last week to a count of grand theft, was also ordered to pay back the American Red Cross for the benefits he received.

``One lie begot another lie begot another lie,'' Henn, 29, of Fort Lauderdale, told the judge. ``It spiraled out of control ... I realized I couldn't stop what I set in motion.''

Henn told the Red Cross, the media and others that he had spoken with his partner en route to the World Trade Center about 45 minutes before the attacks began.

The Red Cross provided Henn with a hotel room and an apartment after the attacks, along with at least $44,000 in checks, including one to pay for a funeral.

``In addition to the tens of thousands of dollars he accepted in services and in money, he took away people _ volunteers _ from the real work they were called to,'' said Circuit Court Judge Marc Gold, who also sentenced Henn to 12 1/2 years of probation.

Suspicion about Henn's story surfaced when a South Florida gay newspaper, The Express, exposed holes in his tale. He disappeared within days and was arrested in Dallas in June 2003.