MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A federal judge sentenced fallen auto mogul Denny Hecker on Friday to a maximum 10 years in prison for fraud, saying he deserved no less due to his pattern of lying and concealing assets in the implosion of his empire.

U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen denied a defense request for eight years, saying Hecker told the truth only when backed into a corner.

“It all adds up to, you don’t get a break,” Ericksen said.

Hecker, looking thin and speaking in a weak voice, asked for leniency. He cried as he spoke about his children and apologized for his actions. He said his purchase of a failing rental car business set in motion a chain of events that drove him to commit fraud to fix his problems.

“I did it because my ego was so big,” Hecker said. “I thought I could conquer anything.”

He added that in recent years, he has been overwhelmed by his bankruptcy, a public divorce and the government’s investigation.

“I didn’t intentionally lie to anybody,” he said. “It seems like everywhere I turn, I’m made to look like this giant villain . My ego is long gone.”

Ericksen said Hecker brought his problems on himself. Besides the 10-year prison term, Ericksen ordered Hecker to pay more than $31 million in restitution to victims. He’ll also be on supervised release for three years.

Hecker pleaded to be released to spend just 24 hours with his kids. Ericksen said: “It pains me to not be able to give your children that opportunity.”

“I can’t let you out,” she said. “I just can’t.”

Ericksen said she would recommend that Hecker serve his sentence in or near Minnesota and that he be admitted to a drug and alcohol treatment program.

Hecker acknowledged in court that he has a problem with drinking and prescription drugs.

Hecker’s attorney, William Mauzy, said admission to a treatment program would shave about a year off Hecker’s sentence. If that happens, and with credit for time served and good behavior, Hecker could be out in seven years, Mauzy estimated.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole Engisch said after the hearing that the sentence was reasonable. She told Ericksen that Hecker committed multiple acts of fraud over several years.

“The defendant, throughout this case, has behaved as though the rules of the court and the bankruptcy court do not apply,” Engisch said.

Mauzy said Hecker was an honest, hard-working businessman until one bad business decision led him to alter documents out of desperation.

“If this were a NASCAR race you would have only seen the crashes, not the rest of the race,” Mauzy said in court.

Hecker, 58, of Medina, pleaded guilty last September to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of bankruptcy fraud. Prosecutors said he cheated Chrysler Financial and other lenders out of tens of millions of dollars so he could support a high-flying lifestyle.

Hecker has been in custody since October when a judge ordered him arrested after he failed to disclose how he spent insurance money.

Hecker got his start selling used cars in Minneapolis decades ago and eventually became one of Minnesota’s largest auto dealers. In 2008, he owned 26 dealerships as well as leasing and fleet businesses, a mortgage brokerage business, Advantage Rent A Car, and multiple real estate and restaurant holdings.

He was a ubiquitous presence in Minnesota — his face appearing on Twin Cities buses and in advertisements as the pitchman for his dealerships. He also lived the high life, with a 52-foot yacht and private jet, fancy cars and multimillion-dollar homes. In 2004, he and other investors unsuccessfully tried to buy the Minnesota Vikings.

But his empire started crumbling in late 2008, when he lost some credit lines and had to close or sell his dealerships. Then everything came tumbling down.

He crashed his Range Rover in December 2008 while on heavy prescription drugs, and later pleaded guilty to careless driving. Some lenders sued him and won default judgments — one to the tune of $477 million. By June 2009 he filed for bankruptcy, claiming $787 million in debt and $18.5 million in assets. A contentious divorce from his fourth wife was played out like a soap opera, with Hecker liquidating his 401(k) account and getting tossed in jail by an angry judge.

While Hecker owed millions, he continued to spend money. His belongings from luxury watches to cars and boats were auctioned off, and he created a fake company to try to buy some of items back. Benefactors came forward with cash. And his ex-father-in-law committed suicide a week after being accused of trying to help Hecker hide money.

The twists and turns of Hecker’s courtroom battles were often front-page news, reflecting the public’s fascination with him, said Keith Moyer, a former Star Tribune publisher who is now a senior fellow at the University of Minnesota’s journalism school.

“He was sort of the poster boy for the economic boom … but then he also kind of turned into a poster boy for the crash,” Moyer said. “He was on top of the world, and then he wasn’t.”

Kelly Hecker, one of Hecker’s adult daughters, said the case has affected the whole family.

“I can’t go somewhere and say my last name and someone not say, ‘Oh, is that the evil Hecker?’ So that’s tough,” she said, adding the case is unfortunate for her dad’s younger children, ages 16 and 10.

“He’s really sorry,” she said. “I hope that he finds peace.”


(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (59)
  1. Mr T says:

    Now, If Obama would go after those crooked wall street tycoons, the banksters and those off shore accounts, we’d atleast be scratching the surface.

    1. Tim Z says:

      I don’t understand. I thaught Obama and the Dems reformed the bankers and Wall St. Oh that’s right, he only made it worse. Wall St. will be handing out record bonuses this year (110 bil.) Bankers are making there money off of Obama’s spending. They are buying treasury bond’s that Obama is printing because they are guranteed a profit. If they loan the money to the average jo there is no gurantee. The best solution is to quit having deficit spending.

  2. Tom says:

    Dear Denny

    just wanted tio say hi from bubba he will be looking for you.

    1. Big Fan says:


  3. Samantha says:

    Whatever will Christie do? Enjoy your new digs Denny.

  4. packthatfudge says:

    I hope He enjoys his love time with his new wife Bubba

  5. Loan Shark says:

    Free Denny !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. BUBBA says:

    I love you Denny, I can’t wait to see you.

  7. BP says:

    They should put him in Stillwater, but he’ll end up in Duluth watching cable tv on his plasma.

    1. hipcheck77 says:

      No, actually he won’t go to Duluth. At least not now. He is considered a flight risk and has been sentenced to too many years. In order for one to go to “Club Fed” or “Minimum Security” destinations (Duluth, Yankton, etc, etc), one must have 5 years or less to serve, not be considered a flight risk, and must be non-violent.

      Also, it is not up to the judge(s) where he will spend his time. All the judge can do is make a recommendation. The “Bureau of Prisons” will be the ones who find him a new home for the next 10 years. More likely than not, he will end up at a “Medium” facility to start (he could get lucky and get a “Low” but certainly not a Minimum.). If I had to guess, I’d say Leavenworth. It is now a “Medium” facility (used to be a “High”) and is in the so called “district” that includes Minnesota. Over time, with good behavior, he will move down to a Low, and eventually a Minimum before his release. Stillwater is a state prison. He won’t be going there regardless.

      We will find out soon.

      1. hipcheck77 says:

        Also, I should make clear that Leavenworth has 2 facilities. They also have a minimum (where Michael Vick was) that is just like Duluth and is next door to the notorious Leavenworth.

        The main Leavenworth prison used to be a ‘high” security. However, due to the fact that it is an extremely old facility, it was re-classified as a medium back in 2005 or 2006.

        Just one more thing. It has come to my attention that his lawyers are claiming he has a “drug problem.” This is a common ploy with lawyers who are defending Federal clients. Reason being is that there is a “drug-rehabilitation” program that inmates can get into that will reduce their sentence. He will not be able to get into it right away. He has too much time to serve. The other possibility is that due to his age and so called “health concerns,” he could end up at the medical facility in Rochester, MN. While certainly not a minimum, it would be a better alternative than a medium Leavenworth.

      2. Elmo says:

        You must have seen fed time. Been there done that

    2. hipcheck77 says:

      I make no claim of “being there, done that.” Let’s just say I know how the Fed system works in these instances.

      For those wishing he would be introduced to “Bubba,” if he does end up at a medium facility, it is a possibility. Especially given the fact that he bilked so many innocent people out of their hard earned money. That does not sit well with other inmates….and trust me, they WILL know why he is there. If he ends up in Rochester, probably not so much.

      Regardless, this will not be a fun time for Denny. His life is going to change dramatically, and not for the better. Any creature comforts he was used to are LONG gone. The first few months are especially difficult. Trying to sleep when others are making noise (it never ends), uncomfortable beds, no privacy, and on and on….

      Once he does get to a minimum facility, things will get better. Uncontrolled movement, no worries of violence, tennis courts, movies, etc, etc.., and believe it or not, the food is actually pretty good. A HELL of a lot better than if one was in a state facility. On holidays, inmates get turkey, all the trimmings, Hershey and Reese’s ice cream pie, ribs, hot dogs, chicken and hamburgers on the grill. Still, 10 years in ANY prison is no vacation. It’s going to be a VERY rude awakening and rough road for Denny.

  8. Common Sense up North says:

    Christie will be well taken care of too. I’m sure there are a lot of men out there willing to spend some time with her. Thinking that she has stashed Denny’s money in her mattress.

    1. DJAbraham says:

      Hysterical!!!!!!!!!!!! i needed a laugh 🙂

  9. Doctorsoccer says:

    Perhaps a few years in the same cell with Van Der Sloot would do the trick.

  10. Smile Big Denny says:

    Why does Hecker get special treatment at the Sherburne County jail? As far as I know, he’s never been listed online as a current inmate. That thief deserves way more than 10 years and it should be spent making little rocks out of big rocks, not relaxing in one of the country’s easiest prisons. That boy never quit screwing people and you can bet your bottom dollar he has plenty squirreled away for later.

  11. Smile Big Denny says:

    Why does he get special treatment at Sherburne County jail? He’s never listed online as a current inmate. This thief should get life making little rocks out of big rocks, not relaxing for ten years at one of the country’s easiest prisons. And you can be sure he’s squirreled enough money away for later.

    1. Enrico is next says:

      He is a federal inmate, not a county inmate. He would not be on the normal jail roster. None of the inmates the feds hold at Sherburne are on the jail roster.

  12. Billy says:

    At his age, he will either die in prison or he will be a very old feeble man when he gets out.

    How old is Denny anyways? he has to be in his late 60’s.

    If denny got 10 years in prison, what would he spend his money on, dentures?

    1. jkk says:

      The article says he’s 58 years old.

      1. Billy says:

        WoW, He looks older.
        I guess thats what happens when ya go to jail and get all your toys taken away from you.

  13. Ven says:

    Here’s an idea – let’s have him talk off the cuff like Bush or Palin (or even McCain) so that it would make no sense, be inarticulate, and off subject….CACs

    1. Todd says:

      But the founders of the nation ended slavery (even though most of them owned slaves), Palin said so, it must be true. And North Korea is our allie. And the constitution is based on Christianity. I could fill the page but I won’t. I think she should get a bigger hand so she can write more notes.

  14. Bob says:

    LOL Feeble old man. Just one of his many faults. Breaking news ch 5 just reported he got the MAX. 10 years with Buba. Buba is going to be happy with some new meat to play with for ten years. Bye Denny enjoy your stay at Minnestoas tax payers expense.

  15. olaf says:

    Life in prison would not have been enough time for him.

  16. Mike Hunt says:

    He has a butt load of money stashed some where. Some one should hang Christie up by her toes & find out where it’s at.

  17. Atta Gir Judge says:

    I agree with olaf … Hecker deserves more time in the pokey. And Mike’s idea for Christie … well, I don’t think there would be a shortage of volunteers for that job. She may be a loser hanging out with a loser – but she’s a pretty cute loser 🙂

    1. Elmo says:

      Yep, wish I could hook up with her. Anyone have her number?

  18. Suzette says:

    Bubba is done with Ole Tom Petters…………….Denny’s time now. Oh and hey, “TELL ‘EM DENNY SENT YOU!”

  19. Kally says:

    Does anyone know if Denny got the 3 weeks off he wanted to say good bye to kids and do as much fraud and crime he could do before starting his sentence? If they let him do this then I have no faith in the courts or the intelligence of the Judge.

  20. yes! says:

    I think they should butter him up and send him as a toy to facilities in St. Peter or Moose Lake.

  21. buy american made says:

    let him make license plates

  22. Dave says:

    hey christy you POS gold digger, you better find someone new that will support you,i dont think denny will make it 10 yrs

  23. BDW says:

    who’s life .. yours Tamitha.. Now you can spend your money you hud.. You did a fine job !

  24. Angel says:

    I guess today would be the incorrect time to hit Denny Up to help fund a new Vikings stadium. If only they had requested money earlier we could have the Denny Hecker stadium already built.
    Well I guess there is always General Mills to foot the bill.

  25. SEW says:

    Law professor, self made millionaire, Author, Attorney, One of the youngest senators ever in office, one of the youngest presidents, first minority president…. your right that adds up to an idiot, I should trust people like yourself and FOXNEWS, I’m clearly misunderstanding what is considered an idiot.

    FYI- The Bank bailout was done by Bush, the stimulus was Obama!! IDIOTS!!!

  26. sam says:

    How does Madoff get 150 years and Hecker only gets 10?

  27. Dale Lindberg says:

    To much time for the crime.

  28. Hannah says:

    I think he should make Minnesota Vikings license plates for the state and then have the state sell them to pay for the new Viking stadium!!!

  29. Kevin says:

    I think that sentencing Mr. Hecker, and others like him, to prison, is a very stupid thing to do because doing so does not really serve society, except maybe to feel revenge for the hurt he caused.

    Rather, I think it would be better to keep people like Mr. Hecker and others in his situation out of prison, on a strictly supervised basis of course, to work at paying back those whom he harmed. Even though he did some very stupid things, Mr. Hecker is an astute businessman. If he were supervised to make sure that he did not violate any laws, perhaps he could turn things around and run very successful businesses that would provide revenue to pay back those who lost money because of him.

    Society has to stop demanding that we throw everyone in prison for nonviolent crimes. The costs are just too damn high. Instead, make the criminals pay back those who they have harmed.

  30. Elmo says:

    Denny will be at a Low prison. Waseca or Sand Stone if he chooses to stay in MN. When if feds, you travel, so won’t be there long. MRSA is very common in the Fed prisons. I don’t pray for even my enimies to have to experience the BS he will have to go through. Just hope he finds the time alone with God, his heart can heal.

    1. hipcheck77 says:


      It’s not up to Denny, his lawyers or the judge as to where Denny will spend the next 10 years. The Bureau of Prisons will make that decision.

      As far as going to a “low,” I wouldn’t be so sure. He as been determined a flight risk, which might move him up to a medium. Also, Waseca is now a woman’s prison. It was changed back in 2006 or 2007.

      Sounds like Denny’s lawyers are saying he has a drug problem. It’s a common ploy to allow one’s client to get into the prison “drug-rehab” program which lessens an inmates sentence. However, he won’t be able for that until he has served at least 6 or 7 years. I would venture to guess he ends up in either Leavenworth (now that it is a medium) or Rochester.

      Just a guess. We will find out soon enough.

  31. We says:

    I have no sympathy for this no good crook who thought the was above all laws rot in prison Denny!

  32. Ode to Joy says:

    When you have it all don’t try to get more.

  33. PrisonBuddy says:

    Hey, Denny…cup the balls…

  34. Boo says:

    Finally… a crooked businessman will be made to pay for his crimes. It’s about time. There are TOO MANY out there that will forever get away with the crooked way they conduct business. Maybe, just maybe, this will make some of them think twice before trying to swindle the hard working public and continue to try to make a illegal buck off of us. I think he’s in the right place and the right thing was done in this situation. I do feel bad for his family that has to deal with the backlash of his crimes, but sometimes we have to bear the cross of those that cross us.

  35. DonnyS says:

    Hey Denny, cup the balls…

  36. Frankal says:

    Obama is a self made millionaire? I though he worked for non-profits and the government. How could this be? Quid pro quo…that’s how.

  37. Mike says:

    His sentence is simply not long enough given the number of people he’s ruined. LIFE was the only just sentence…

  38. mark from mntaxwaste.com says:

    Wow, what a clown he still plays the victim

  39. Duex Hambone says:

    I really doubt that “Bubba” would find any pleasure in Denney’s wrinkly feeble old mans butt. Just saying.

    1. Duex Hambone says:

      But he might like to smack him around a bit.

  40. Plil Mcrackin says:

    I would do Denney