Two men were spared prison time for their involvement in a kickback dealing with a Force Protection contract.

A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced Robert E. Coker of Sumter and William Ramsey of Daytona Beach, Fla., each to two years of probation.

Coker already had pleaded guilty to paying a kickback, and Ramsey had pleaded guilty to accepting a kickback earlier this year.

Coker was the owner of REC, an industrial cleaning and maintenance contracting company based in Sumter.

When Force Protection needed to award a $510,000 contract for the cleaning of their paint stalls, Ramsey, who was a paint department manager at the Ladson-based defense contractor, helped Coker secure the lowest bid, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim May.

In exchange for his assistance, Coker paid Ramsey a portion of the profit, which was about $45,000, between January 2008 and July 2009, May said.

The pair were facing a sentence of about a year and a half in prison, but U.S. District Judge Patrick Duffy sentenced them to probation after both Coker's and Ramsey's attorneys requested the judge go below the guideline sentence of 10 to 16 months. May also told the judge he felt that was appropriate.

"By all accounts, the work was done well and done for the lowest price," May said following the hearing.

Both Coker and Ramsey apologized to the judge.

"I made some mistakes I wish I had never made," said Coker, whose age was unavailable.

Ramsey, 60, who is now unemployed and having trouble finding work in his industry following the arrest, called it a lack of judgment on his part.

During the hearing in Charleston, Duffy called the incident an aberration and that he didn't believe either of the men were dangers to the community.

Force Protection played a key role in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with its armored troop transports that are designed to withstand mine blasts.

General Dynamics Corp. bought the company for $360 million in December 2011 and folded the business into its Land Systems unit.

Reach Natalie Caula Hauff at 937-5594 or