Minnesota Auto Dealership Mogul Claims Bad Bankruptcy Advice put Him in Prison

It has been two years since Denny Hecker filed for personal chapter 7 bankruptcy. Hecker says he filed because his lawyers told him it was the only way to get the "gorilla" off his back. The "gorilla" in question is creditor Chrysler Financial. Hecker owed the financial arm of the automaker $767 million, and lesser amounts to other creditors.

Hecker states that his gut told him not to file, but he succumbed to pressure from long-time trusted friends, employees with a vested interest in the company, and his spouse at the time. Lawyers told him that he could shed his debt to his creditors, and Hecker figured he could maintain his family's lifestyle by running his remaining businesses.

The bankruptcy started going wrong when the trustee handling the bankruptcy case started to ask questions. Complicating the case was the sale of two dealerships that were not finalized when the bankruptcy was filed. Trustee Randy Seaver raised questions about turning over the funds from the sales to pay other creditors.  The situation worsened when people who knew Hecker started calling in tips about hidden assets to Seaver.

Hecker claims that he was a victim who was "outmaneuvered" by a raft of lawyers, including an "aggressive" bankruptcy trustee and his own lawyer.

Federal prosecutors and Seaver stated that "Hecker committed bankruptcy fraud, repeatedly lied and chose to put his own financial interests above all else, including the rule of law and our system of justice."

Prosecutors charged Hecker with bankruptcy and wire fraud. Hecker plead guilty and received a prison sentence of up to ten years.

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