After 7½ years in prison, former Minnesota auto mogul Denny Hecker has been released to a halfway house in Minneapolis, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.
Hecker was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2011 for defrauding Chrysler Financial and other automakers out of millions of dollars. He pleaded guilty in 2010 after admitting that he had illegally altered loan documents in order to borrow much more money than he was actually entitled to. He was also caught hiding money from the court after declaring bankruptcy.
He was nabbed when the FBI discovered that he had secretly cashed in an insurance plan and was living on preloaded debit cards. The FBI seized Hecker’s debit cards, but Hecker and his future wife, Christi Rowan, secretly had them reissued.
That discovery upset U.S. District Judge Michael Davis, who ordered Hecker taken into custody in October 2010.
The Minneapolis-raised Hecker created an auto empire after an early start as a car salesman and work at the Minneapolis Auto Auction. His dealership business grew dramatically after 1999 with the help of acquisitions that gave him a presence across Minnesota and parts of California. But as Hecker’s business grew, so did his spending.
The abrupt start of the Great Recession and imploding auto industry exposed the cracks in his financing schemes. At one time, his businesses were worth an estimated $6.8 billion and included 26 dealerships, several fleet-leasing firms, the Advantage Rent-A-Car chain and scores of limited liability companies carrying different names.
Hecker, who for years had developed a persona as a brash braggart with a penchant for using his likeness on bus and building billboards, was initially sentenced to serve his term at the low-security Duluth federal prison camp. He was moved to federal prisons in Wisconsin, Indiana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Illinois before being returned to Duluth in October 2017.
He is now in an undisclosed location in Minneapolis. Bureau of Prison officials said the halfway house or “residential re-entry management” program houses prisoners while they are receiving counseling and working until they are fully released back into society.