A former bank employee from Shelton who had no criminal record and used to give financial advice at seminars was sentenced Tuesday to four years in prison for robbing a Westport bank just before Christmas.

James Watson, 45, of Howe Avenue in Shelton, appeared before Judge Gary White in state Superior Court in Stamford to be sentenced, having pleaded guilty this past summer to the Dec. 21 armed robbery of the Citibank office at 399 Post Road West in Westport.

Watson is a former employee of Wachovia, Fleet Bank and a mortgage company, and ran his own company, Wealth Capital Group, while also dispensing advice as a finance specialist. At the time of the robbery, he was mired in medical debts and was trying to find money for his children for Christmas, according to his public defender, Howard Ehring.

Watson ended up walking out of the bank with just $972.

Watson appeared subdued in court, and when White asked him if he had anything to say, he said he was sorry. With his father sitting in a court seat nearby, Watson said the past 10 months have been a "challenge," but vowed to use his time in jail wisely, "to repair the broken parts of my character."

"I am doing what I am supposed to be doing" by going to jail, he told the judge.

Even Senior Assistant State's Attorney Paul Ferencek called the case a "sad" one, but one that still demanded jail time because of Watson's threat to use a knife while he was robbing the bank wearing a long back duster coat and purple baseball cap.

Watson was sentenced to 10 years in jail, but the plea agreement calls from him to be released after serving four years. He must successfully serve three years probation or he can be sent back to jail to serve either some or all of the six-year suspended sentence.