Hecker girlfriend charged with fraud

  • Article by: DEE DEPASS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 9, 2010 - 11:44 PM

Christi Rowan is accused of helping the former auto dealer hide assets during bankruptcy.

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Christi Rowan, the girlfriend of fallen auto mogul Denny Hecker, has been charged with lying in court and bank fraud for allegedly helping him hide assets in his bankruptcy case.

Christi Rowan, the girlfriend of fallen auto mogul Denny Hecker, has been charged with lying in court and bank fraud for allegedly helping him hide assets in his bankruptcy case.

According to a federal criminal information document filed Friday, Rowan, 36, defrauded Endura Federal Credit Union in April 2009 while seeking an automobile loan for Hecker.

Rowan allegedly falsified a W-2 tax form and falsely claimed she was an attorney making $189,000 a year when she applied for a loan to buy a 2008 Land Rover for Hecker, according to records filed in bankruptcy court. At the time, she denied falsifying the loan application but admitted giving the dealership the altered W-2. Rowan said she was a freelance photographer when questioned in the bankruptcy proceeding. She is charged with one count of bankruptcy fraud and one count of bank fraud. If convicted, Rowan faces a maximum penalty of five years on the bankruptcy fraud charge and 20 years in prison on the bank fraud count.

The filing of a criminal information document means she agreed to be charged by prosecutors in anticipation of a plea agreement. If that falls apart, she could still be indicted by a federal grand jury. A hearing in U.S. District Court relating to the charges and a possible plea agreement generally occur within two weeks of a criminal information filing, court officials said.

Rowan could not be reached for comment on Friday.

Previously she told the Star Tribune that she had no money and would be requesting the help of a public defender.

The U.S. attorney's office said the criminal charges announced Friday resulted from an investigation by the State Patrol, the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Rowan had been living in Hecker's Medina home for nearly a year, and before that lived in the Whitney condominium building in Minneapolis with the support of Hecker, court records showed.

Her current residence is unclear; however, the U.S. attorney's office has her listed in Wayzata. Unlike Hecker, 57, who wears an ankle monitor and has an evening curfew, Rowan is free to travel.

Rowan first rose to the public's attention last year after Hecker filed for bankruptcy and listed Rowan as the recipient of a $60,000 fur coat, lavish jewels and cash.

A bankruptcy trustee later found other undisclosed Hecker financial help that went to Rowan, including credit card charges, expensive vacations to Hawaii, Mexico and Colorado, large sums of cash and a $30,000 Harrison K9 guard dog.

The criminal charges announced this week mark the third round of legal troubles for Rowan in a decade.

She was charged with felony theft in January 2000 for embezzling a total of $14,000 over two incidents in 1999 from then-employer Mel Clayton, a Ford dealer in Arizona.

She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years of probation, 50 hours of community service and restitution payments of $100 a month.

In January of this year, the bankruptcy trustee handling Hecker's case sued Rowan for fraudulently transferring and hiding assets on behalf of Hecker.

She was ordered to turn over $425,000 worth of gifts from Hecker that included jewelry, the $60,000 fur coat and the 2008 Land Rover. Rowan was recently allowed to keep the dog Hecker gave her.

She kept the dog as part of the settlement Wednesday between the trustee and Hecker in which he remains responsible for all of his debts. He gave up his bankruptcy battle to focus on his criminal case.

Hecker, who has been romantically linked with Rowan for about two years, faces 25 federal criminal counts of bankruptcy fraud, money laundering, wire fraud and conspiracy.

He filed for bankruptcy in June claiming $767 million in debt and $18.5 million in assets. Hecker has 104 creditors, the largest of which is Chrysler Financial, to which he owes nearly $400 million.

Hecker's bankruptcy attorney said previously that, after several repossessions and liquidations, the real amount Hecker now owes is a little more than $400 million. The attorney for the bankruptcy trustee could not confirm that amount.

Regardless, it appears that Hecker will remain in debt for the rest of his life and have a hard time ever getting credit again.

Efforts to raise a defense fund have fallen short, forcing Hecker and Rowan to seek public defenders.

Dee DePass • 612-673-7725

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