Couple stole hundreds of thousands from a building project and helped collapse a bank

Couple stole hundreds of thousands from a building project and helped collapse a bank

On its face, the plan was perfect. Virginia and Philip Carlson would develop a building project, secure loans from a bank, and fiddle around a bit with the contracts to grab some money for themselves. They'd buy cars. Snowmobiles. Even help pay for a second home.

But it didn't work. The plan ran out in early 2008, and yesterday, the couple was found guilty of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the project, helping lead to the collapse of a local bank.

See also: Colin and Andrea Chisholm's real-life American hustle

The ruse started with an office project, called Amber Woods, that the Carlsons were building. Consisting of five office duplexes, it would bring in business and hopefully major income to the couple. It was a joint project, with the Carlsons' company working together with a different group, called Hilloway East. The Carlsons were the developer and the contractor.

But nearly as quickly as they broke ground in 2007, the Carlsons started grabbing cash. The trick was simple: The Carlsons would go to First Commerical Bank in Bloomington, which authorized more than $6 million in loans on the project. They would make up documents from a company they'd hired to work on the project, asking for a check so they could pay for certain services. They'd bring that request to First Commercial Bank, and it would hand them a check. Which they would keep.

The Carlsons kept pulling the fakery off, over and over again. First asking for money to give to a construction company. Then landscaping. Even one for a fake company called Logan Ryan that the couple said was run by Virginia Carlson's son. Through July 2008, they were just taking the money and putting it right in their own pockets, helping to finance cars and homes.

"It was an artifice, a trick," said Hennepin County Attorney Emery Adoradio.

By the time they were caught in 2008, the Carlsons had left behind a trail of destruction: an unfinished project, a bank stuck with hundreds of thousands in debt, and business partners and workers left out in the cold, out of money due to a couple's greed. The Carlsons had left their mark.

In total, the couple pulled in more than $3.1 million in loans from First Commercial, with hundreds of thousands never even reaching the development project. The bank faced other problems, but losing so much money left it in a far worse position.

The county is seeking to put the couple in jail for four years for the crimes.

Send your story tips to the author, Robbie Feinberg. Follow him on Twitter @robbiefeinberg.

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