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His mother founded a Twin Cities investment adviser company. His father was a minister. Now the couple's 43-year-old son, who worked for his mother, has been sentenced to prison for using the business to cheat his father and other clients out of nearly $2 million.

Joel W. Carlson, of Vadnais Heights, having pleaded guilty in federal court in Minneapolis, was sentenced Friday to 3½ years in prison and ordered to pay restitution to his victims for the full amount along with another $1.2 million to the IRS.

In 2010 and 2011, Carlson deposited client investments, as well as money from his father, into an account he tapped for his own personal desires, according to Carlson's own admissions and court documents. For those years, Carlson also failed to file personal income tax returns as well as for 2005 through 2007.

"Mr. Carlson engaged in selfish and calculated actions to enrich himself and his immediate family," the prosecution said in a pre-sentencing court filing. "[He] took advantage of his parents' unfailing trust that he would do right by them."

Prosecutors also noted Carlson joined the Roseville-based business at age 25 and rose to president of Trust Financial Group "under his mother's tutelage" and earned "a handsome living."

In arguing for a prison term of not more than two years, Carlson's defense pointed out its client had never been in trouble with the law before and accepted responsibility for the fraud he committed without using "his problem with alcohol as an excuse."

His attorneys said Carlson took care of his father until he died in October. His mother also has died. The defense added that Carlson was an anonymous kidney donor.

Carlson was "living the American dream" before his legal troubles, the defense continued. "He was happily married, had four beautiful children, a nice home in the suburbs, a dog, the family cabin in Michigan, time for golf, lots of friends and drinking buddies. "He was a model of success and happiness."

But his indictment and guilty plea changed all that. He "now works in a coffee shop and humbly awaits his fate," the defense wrote in its late-January filing.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482