Utah federal Judge Thomas Greene sentenced a Utah businessman to six months in prison Tuesday on his guilty plea to filing a false federal income tax return for the year 1981.

"I'm going to impose sentence in the interest of justice and the best interest of the public by having him serve six months," Greene said in suspending most of a two-year sentence for Gary E. Feltch, 47, Salt Lake City.Feltch admitted May 9 filing a false 1981 return, listing income of $80,057 when he knew his income was greater. In exchange for Feltch's guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to dismiss two other counts for the years 1982 and 1983.

Greene also ordered Feltch to serve four years probation and perform 100 hours of community service. In addition, the principal owner of AA Carbide Inc., a company that sharpens saw blades, is liable for all back taxes due, as well as interest and any penalities the Internal Revenue Service may impose.

Prosecutor Barry Rhoades told the judge the government believed Feltch did not report about $10,000 in checks for the year 1981, "and more important, a substantial amount of cash was skimmed from the corporation."

But defense attorney Peter Stirba contested that, telling the judge the amount was closer to $3,100.

"It wasn't an outrageously high amount of money. There is no question that what Mr. Feltch did was completely uncharacteristic," said Stirba, who argued his client should be given probation.

But Rhoades asked the judge to impose a prison term, to send "notice to other small businessmen that it's not worth the risk" to file false returns. "All that money that should have gone to the government went into his pockets and to pay off divorce settlements."