Denny Hecker once made $20 million a year selling cars and went almost anywhere he pleased. On Tuesday, the fallen auto mogul's claims of being too broke to support an ex-wife landed him in jail for up to 90 days.
Hennepin County Judge Jay Quam ordered Hecker handcuffed and taken to jail after a hearing in which Hecker failed to convince the judge he would make good on $10,000 in back support payments he owes to his second wife, Sandra Hecker.
"I don't like doing this. But I am going to take you into custody to motivate you," Quam said to Hecker. "You have had a trifecta of legal problems that is probably unprecedented in Minnesota history. But whoever you are and whatever problems you have outside of the courtroom, the obligations here don't change." Quam ordered Hecker confined until he finds the money to pay Sandra Hecker and provides a full accounting of his finances. The judge refused to order daytime work release privileges for Hecker.
Hecker wasn't brought from jail for a second scheduled hearing Tuesday, regarding fourth wife Tamitha Hecker's financial support. The substance of the hearing was delayed a month so Hecker's new lawyer, D. Patrick McCullough, can catch up. Tamitha Hecker is supposed to get $7,500 a month, pending resolution of the financial details of their divorce. She said he hasn't paid since January, and she wants him held in civil contempt for failing to pay her, too.
After he went to jail, Hecker's federal criminal defense lawyer, Bill Mauzy, sought to withdraw from the case because Hecker hasn't paid him. Hecker has said he would need a public defender if Mauzy withdrew.
Mauzy said Hecker has friends who could help pay for his defense, but their "reward" has been subpoenas for a federal grand jury or bankruptcy hearing. "So the effect is predictable; people are intimidated," Mauzy said.
Hecker alluded to that effect in testimony Tuesday. He said his fund-raising efforts are being thwarted by the FBI, the IRS and "anybody else with a badge."
Late Tuesday, officials transferred Hecker from the jail to the county workhouse. Such transfers are considered routine.
Dialing for dollars
Hecker is required to pay Sandra Hecker $1,800 a month based on their 1983 divorce pact. The former mogul testified that his expectations of earning $2 million a year in post-bankruptcy consulting agreements with dealerships have fallen through, so he dials for dollars.
"Yesterday, I might have made 100 phone calls raising funds that we do have today," he said.
McCullough asked Hecker if he had intentionally defied a court order. "That's a good question," Hecker said. "Because if you look at our actions, it looks like Rodney Dangerfield."
Defending a trip to Aspen, Colo., Hecker said it was stress-relief for his children and to clean out a repossessed house.
"If anybody in this room had 28 federal indictments against them and not knowing what the outcome might be, [they] can criticize that," said Hecker, referring to the 25 federal criminal charges against him, alleging fraud, conspiracy and money laundering.
Reviewing Hecker's financial statements, Sandra Hecker's lawyer, Michael Ormond, noted cash withdrawals of $44,893.50 to Hecker himself. The car dealer said, "And your question to me is?"
Ormond said, "You took this money out for yourself?"
Hecker said, "Did I take the money out? Yes I did. Was it for myself? No."
He said some of the money covered bounced checks, and some paid "vendors," but he didn't have details because he has no credit card or checking accounts anymore.
Ormond asked Hecker what he's been living on, since he reported $2,000 in the bank as of March 8. Hecker said, "In February, March, there isn't nothing gotten paid."
Quam said he'd admonished Hecker for months to fully disclose his finances and pay his obligations. "You have had access to substantial funds," Quam said.
'Pain and agony'
Hecker's money troubles come after years of exotic vacations, private schools for the children and lavish spending on cars, jewelry and dogs. He filed for bankruptcy in June, claiming $767 million in debts and $18.5 million in assets. He agreed earlier this month to not have any of his debt forgiven.
"The lifestyle before the divorce was, 'You can't believe what they had,'" Hecker said. "Then the divorce came, and these children -- you can't believe the pain and agony."
He said his 15- and 9-year-old children are harassed at school and ask him when pervasive media reports about him will end. Quam told Hecker that he alone has the power to stop the coverage by fulfilling his obligations.