MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Disgraced auto mogul Denny Hecker is scheduled to get out of prison in a matter of weeks, but WCCO has learned there are new questions about how much money he still has.
A new filing in bankruptcy court says a deposit of more than $34,000 was recorded in Hecker’s prison commissary account — but that’s just the beginning of a new money trail.
Hecker has been behind bars for almost seven years. In a letter to WCCO’s Esme Murphy, he writes he expects to be released from an Illinois prison early on Oct. 6.
According to the bankruptcy filing, there are 15 separate accounts being held as unclaimed property at the Minnesota Department of Commerce in the name of companies that Hecker once owned. The Department of Commerce couldn’t say how much is in all those accounts.
Hecker is not alone in having withheld funds — the Department of Commerce holds 4 million separate accounts of unclaimed property, which a spokesman says the department would love to return to the rightful owners.
Tuesday’s court filing shows the bankruptcy trustee does not want the money in the Hecker accounts to go back to Hecker when he’s released. The trustee says he wants it go to people Hecker still owes money to.
Hecker once controlled a multibillion dollar empire that included 26 car dealerships and lived in a 17,000-square-foot mansion in Medina. He was convicted of conspiracy and bankruptcy fraud in 2011.
Last August, the City of Inver Grove Heights — which owed $34,000 to one of Hecker’s former companies — deposited that money directly into Hecker’s prison account.
The $34,000 did not last long in Hecker’s prison account. The majority of it was seized and returned to creditors.
Hecker’s Attorney Brian Toder says he’s convinced Hecker did not orchestrate the payment, saying “Why would Denny jeopardize getting out early?”
In response to the news of the deposit in Hecker’s prison commissary account, the city of Inver Grove Heights released the following statement:
It is common practice that the City of Inver Grove Heights collects Escrow funds from applicants, owners and developers to cover costs for services such as legal, engineering, testing, inspection, design and compliance. After completion of a project with surety that all costs have been covered the excess Escrow funds are returned to the business or the person that established the Escrow account. Escrow funds are not tax revenue collected from the City’s taxpayers.
Jacob Holdings LLC was the registered business of Denny Hecker’s auto dealerships in Inver Grove Heights. In August 2016, staff attempted to return Escrow monies to Jacob Holdings LLC but the company was bankrupt. Staff returned a $34,469.28 check to the last known address of the person who established the Escrow account, the account holder was Denny Hecker. The City has no record of notification by the State of Minnesota, Bankruptcy Trustee or a third party that any excess funds from Jacob Holdings LLC, Denny Hecker’s auto dealerships or Denny Hecker should be held or remitted to them.
It is unfortunate that the Escrow funds submitted to the last known address of Mr. Hecker could be deposited by Mr. Hecker into his prison commissary account.
The process of returning Escrow funds and the City’s accounting process is currently under review to make sure funds have higher discretionary restrictions in the future. The City’s financials are audited by financial experts annually to ensure effective internal controls while reviewing them against accounting standards. The City’s 2016 financial audit results obtained were found to meet or exceed all standards. Inver Grove Heights was recently awarded the 10th fiscally healthiest City in Minnesota from the Minnesota Center for Fiscal Excellence and the City has 30 years of award winning financial reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA). Inver Grove Heights strives to meet high standards reporting while strengthening and improving our financial and accounting processes.