Joel Berntsen persuaded his 95-year-old mother to give him $290,000 to buy a house in North Oaks, then made her pay his $2,000 monthly mortgage, according to charges filed against him in Ramsey County District Court.
Berntsen, 58, of Minneapolis, has been charged with financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult. According to the criminal complaint filed last week, his mother has dementia.
She told an adult protection worker in March that her son "sees her money as 'family money' instead of her money and that he cannot have any more money because she needs it."
When Roseville police checked with the residence where Berntsen's mother lives, they learned that she was behind on her rent and that several of her checks had bounced due to insufficient funds in her bank account.
Berntsen told police that he bought the house in North Oaks after his previous house went into foreclosure. The North Oaks house also went into foreclosure in 2008, and Berntsen's mother received a letter from the IRS telling her she owed almost $13,000 in back taxes because Berntsen had put the house in her name.
The complaint said Berntsen also wrote 26 checks on his mother's account, totaling almost $22,000.
The defendant told police his mother was reluctant to lend him money but each month eventually agreed to give it to him. He "admitted that he did abuse the situation but stated that it was because he was desperate," the complaint said.
"Berntsen stated that because he was divorced, foreclosures, vehicle repossessions and the loss of his business, he needed her money and hoped he would eventually be able to pay her back," the document said. "[He] also admitted to using [his mother's] credit cards to pay his bills."
Berntsen was charged by summons and ordered to appear in court Oct. 22.