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Former Sunflower CEO Sentenced in Child Sex Sting

Michael C. Gilliland, founder and former CEO of Sunflower Farmers Market, was busted last year in Phoenix as part of a child prostitution sting.

The incident cost Gilliland his job. Now it will cost him his freedom -- for 28 days, at least. On Tuesday, the former CEO was sentenced to four weeks in jail for misdemeanor attempted pandering, The Associated Press reports.

In February 2011, Gilliland reportedly began chatting online with an undercover officer who was posing as a 17-year-old prostitute. The former CEO agreed to pay $100 for sex with the fictional teen.

When Gilliland arrived at a Phoenix hotel to meet the supposed prostitute, he was arrested. He resigned from his position as CEO of Sunflower shortly after.

Any person who takes money from a prostitute, manages a prostitute, or encourages prostitution is guilty of the more serious crime of pandering. It's a Class 5 felony and is punishable by up to four years in prison.

While Gilliland was originally charged with felony child prostitution, he pleaded guilty to attempted pandering in August. That's a Class 6 felony and is punishable by up to 18 months in jail.

"I sincerely regret the mistake that I made that brought me here today. I understand the damage I have caused," Gilliland said in court, according to the AP. He added that he takes full responsibility for his actions.

Gilliland got off relatively easy with a 30-day prison sentence. In sentencing the former Sunflower CEO, Maricopa County Superior Court Commissioner Steven Lynch noted that Gilliland had no previous criminal history and had donated money in the past to a number of good causes.

Gilliland began serving his sentence Tuesday afternoon.

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