Hecker under tighter wraps at Duluth prison camp

  • Article by: DEE DEPASS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 8, 2012 - 10:10 AM

The former auto mogul fears that he might be transferred to a traditional prison, his former attorney says.


Denny Hecker

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

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Denny Hecker's former attorney and a onetime business associate worry that the fraudster's move to solitary confinement may be the first step toward a transfer to a traditional prison.

For weeks, Hecker -- who is serving a 10-year sentence for fraud at the Federal Prison Camp in Duluth -- has been held in a special segregated housing unit.

"It's a room with two beds in it. Sometimes he has a roommate, sometimes he doesn't," former Hecker defense attorney Brian Toder told the Star Tribune on Tuesday. Toder visited Hecker on Monday.

Asked why Hecker would be placed in special confinement, Toder said he didn't know but said he didn't believe it was over a rules infraction.

Richard Safra, a community corrections manager for the Bureau of Prisons in Minneapolis, declined Tuesday to discuss Hecker's case. He said prisoners can be segregated from the main prison population for numerous reasons, including some that have nothing to do with the prisoner's behavior. Prison wardens decide what to do with prisoners who either don't follow the rules, are in danger or create a security risk, Safra said.

Toder acknowledged that prison officials have discretion on such matters, especially if they are led to believe a prisoner might try to escape.

"You can be an angel and still be put into solitary confinement if somebody in the government suddenly thinks you are a flight risk," Toder said. "There is a rumor that somebody thinks that Denny might be a flight risk. And it's not based on anything Denny has done or any conduct on his part."

Hecker, 59, pleaded guilty in September 2010 to bankruptcy fraud and defrauding auto lenders out of hundreds of millions of dollars. He was sentenced last year to 10 years in prison at the minimum security prison camp in Duluth.

Hecker, who has suffered from diabetes and other health problems, now fears he may be transferred to a traditional prison, Toder said. "If that happens, [Denny] is history," said Ralph Thomas, businessman and Hecker's longtime friend. Thomas, who previously loaned Hecker large sums of money, paid for one of his defense attorneys and made his private jet available to Hecker, said the former auto dealer is not a flight risk.

Trouble with cellphone?

Thomas said he believes Hecker is in trouble for abusing the prison's cellphone policy.

Bureau of Prisons spokesman Chris Burke said Tuesday that prisons reserve the right to transfer prisoners at any time for a variety of reasons.

Toder noted that Hecker's special confinement coincided with bankruptcy trustee Randy Seaver's recent requests to subpoena several of Hecker's friends; his ex-wife Sandra Hecker, and a friend of Hecker's current wife, Christi Rowan Hecker.

Digging for assets

Court documents said Seaver asked for the subpoenas because the individuals may know of assets Hecker failed to turn over to the court. Seaver has long accused Hecker and Rowan of hiding cash, jewelry, cars, insurance policies and other assets from the bankruptcy court.

Seaver's attorney, Matthew Burton, said he's still taking depositions and has found "no pot of gold yet."

"We are still digging," Burton said, adding that "I am unaware of any connection between our investigation and the prison's handling of Mr. Hecker."

Dee DePass • 612-673-7725

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