Former Auto Mogul Hecker Winds Up Behind Bars

This year, former Minnesota auto giant Denny Hecker pleaded not guilty to some charges, pleaded guilty to other charges, and wound up in jail to await his sentencing after prosecutors uncovered some shifty moves in his bankruptcy case.

It's been a whirlwind year for former auto mogul Denny Hecker, whose actions frequently generated headlines.

Last year, his dynasty of auto dealerships, a rental car company, and other ventures crumbled under the weight of more than $700 million in debt.

Allegations of misconduct began surfacing, and in February 2010, Hecker was indicted on federal charges of conspiracy, fraud, and money laundering.

The government accused Hecker of falsifying documents to obtain $80 million in financing for the purchase of Hyundai vehicles. It also alleged that Hecker filed for personal bankruptcy in 2009 to avoid paying off his lenders-and accused him of hiding personal assets from the court. Hecker pleaded not guilty to the charges in February.

The terms of his release required him to wear an electronic monitoring device, surrender his passport, and adhere to a curfew-restrictions that he repeatedly fought but that the court upheld on the grounds that he was a flight risk.

In June, public defender Brian Toder-who was appointed to represent Hecker in April after Hecker claimed to be broke-filed a series of documents with the court requesting that some of the charges be dropped. U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Richard Nelson soon after denied the requests.

In July, the federal government revised its plan of attack by dropping some of the charges and adding others-resulting in 26 total counts, including 11 counts related to bankruptcy fraud.

Hecker again pleaded not guilty, but federal prosecutors filed a motion in early September asking the court to detain Hecker until his criminal trial and accusing him of committing additional crimes.

Less than a week later, Hecker pleaded guilty to one count of bankruptcy fraud and one related to conspiracy-and prosecutors in exchange dropped all of the other criminal charges. Hecker faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for those charges.

But the story doesn't stop there-or even slow down. After Hecker pleaded guilty, prosecutors filed wave after wave of documents accusing Hecker of shifty moves in his bankruptcy case, including allegations that he and his girlfriend collaborated to hide assets from the court.

At a hearing in October, Hecker was taken into custody after refusing to supply a sufficient answer regarding where his money comes from and why he hasn't paid funds into an account that would help pay for his public defender-and alleviate the burden of taxpayers.

Fed up with Hecker's seemingly endless violations of court orders, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Davis ordered Hecker to remain in jail until his sentencing-and he remains in custody at this time.

Hecker, however, has managed to cause mischief even from the confines of Sherburne County jail. For example, he was accused in November of trying to arrange an impromptu wedding, which was stopped by U.S. Marshals.

And in court documents filed earlier this month, Hecker admitted to buying back his own property at a bankruptcy auction earlier this year.

It's tough to tell how-or when-Hecker's saga will finally conclude. Court documents imply that his sentencing date has not been formally set, although media reports indicate that it will likely take place in early 2011.