Hecker Exec Leach Enters Guilty Plea, Faces 5 Yrs.

Prior to entering an agreement with prosecutors, the former executive of fallen auto mogul Denny Hecker faced 20 years in prison.

Steven Leach, a former executive of Denny Hecker, on Friday pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and faces up to five years in prison.

Negotiations with prosecutors started last week, and a plea agreement was reached Thursday. Leach was originally charged with 14 counts and faced 20 years in prison. The indictment was later changed to charge him with 15 counts and then it was ultimately changed to charge him with 10 counts. Under the plea agreement, the government agreed to dismiss all charges against Leach in exchange for a plea to a new conspiracy charge that has a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison.

Leach's guilty plea comes just four days after James Carl Gustafson-another former executive of Denny Hecker-pleaded guilty to two counts. Gustafson faces 25 years in prison.

Sentencing proceedings for both Leach and Gustafson have not yet been scheduled.

The plea agreement stated that Leach did not gain anything personally from Hecker's fraud. It also said that Leach was not involved in Hecker's later conduct, which included acts to perpetuate, cover-up, and conceal the fraud in 2008 and 2009. Robert Sicoli, Leach's attorney, said that he and his client were happy that prosecutors agreed that Leach was a minor participant in the scheme.

Leach was indicted with Hecker in February for wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He pleaded not guilty a few days later.

While working with Hecker, Leach allegedly falsified documents to lender Chrysler Financial Services, LLC, to obtain $80 million in financing for the purchase of Hyundai vehicles.

In June, Leach filed a motion to have nine of the 14 charges he faced dismissed and requested a trial separate from Hecker. U.S. District Judge Joan Erickson denied both requests in August.

Hecker pleaded guilty on September 7 to two criminal charges-one count of bankruptcy fraud and one count 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.

-Melissa Loth