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The owner of Advantius Inc., a payroll servicing company that pocketed funds from its clients instead of using the money to pay their taxes, says mental-health problems rendered him incapable of making good decisions or withdrawing from his business.

But a federal judge on Thursday was not swayed and sentenced him to prison.

According to defense attorney Peter Stirba, Robert J. Stevens sometimes would sit under his desk crying or thinking about walking out into traffic, a result of seizure and bipolar disorders that causes manic highs and depressive lows.

Stirba argued that Stevens, a 49-year-old Salt Lake City resident, has diminished capacity as Stirba called for a reduction in his punishment for conspiracy to defraud the United States.

U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell said she believes Stevens has bipolar disorder but disagreed that his mental condition prevented him from making good decisions. She imposed a term of 37 months in prison and ordered him to pay $3.1 million in restitution.

"The offense was very serious and caused tremendous loss and tremendous hardship to many people," the judge said.

The Stevens and two other Advantius executives - Neal Bergstrom, 42, of Sandy, the chief executive officer, and Kevin T. Anderson, 32, of Salt Lake City, controller and chief financial officer - were charged in a federal indictment with defrauding 37 clients and using millions of dollars of their funds for something other than taxes. One of their largest clients was, which is owed more than $2 million.

All three pleaded guilty in the case.

Bergstrom was sentenced last month to 27 months in prison and Anderson to a year and a day behind bars.