Gustafson Pleads Guilty to 2 Counts, Faces 25 Yrs.

The former executive of Denny Hecker pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to investigators and one count of mail fraud.

James Carl Gustafson, a former executive of Denny Hecker, on Monday pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement to investigators and one count of mail fraud. He faces up to 25 years in prison.

Gustafson was charged by the U.S. Attorney's office last week for the two counts. A sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.

Gustafson allegedly lied to federal investigators by telling them that he didn't know until October 2008 that Hecker had falsified a document from Hyundai Motor America in order to defraud Chrysler Financial. Gustafson actually knew about the falsified submission-which occurred in November 2007-prior to October 2008, according to the official complaint filed last week.

Prosecutors also accused Gustafson of attempting to transfer the title on Hecker's 2004 Cadillac Escalade to Northstate Financial “in order to mask the vehicle's true owner and hide the asset from owner's primary creditor, Chrysler Financial”-an act that constitutes mail fraud.

Gustafson was charged by “information” and without a grand jury indictment. Oftentimes, those charged in that way strike a deal with the government in the hopes of receiving leniency.

In June, a U.S. bankruptcy judge found Gustafson in contempt of court and ordered him to pay $550 for failing to comply with an order to turn over documents related to Hecker's bankruptcy case. A short time later, Gustafson provided the documents and thus avoided serving jail time.

Hecker pleaded guilty on September 7 to two criminal charges-one count of bankruptcy fraud and one related to conspiracy. Prosecutors agreed to drop the 24 other criminal charges against Hecker in exchange for his guilty pleas; Hecker had previously pleaded not guilty to all 26 criminal charges that he faced; the charges relate to fraud, conspiracy, money laundering, and bankruptcy fraud. The government had accused Hecker of defrauding lenders by forging documents to obtain more than $100 million in loans.

Hecker filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy as an individual in June 2009. He was later charged with bankruptcy fraud related to false declaration and pertaining to transfer and concealment of funds.

-Melissa Loth