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After serving time in federal prison, former Minn. auto mogul Denny Hecker set for release

Denny Hecker. File photo / St. Paul Pioneer Press

MINNEAPOLIS — Former auto mogul Denny Hecker is expected to be released Thursday, Oct. 5, from a halfway house in Minneapolis where he has lived since serving most of a 10-year sentence in federal prison.

Hecker, 65, pleaded guilty to bankruptcy and wire fraud and was sentenced in 2011. Prosecutors said he cheated Chrysler Financial and other auto lenders out of tens of millions of dollars while living an opulent lifestyle.

He once owned 26 auto dealerships and Advantage Rent-A-Car. Hecker filed for personal bankruptcy in June 2009. At that time, he owed $767 million, largely due to personal guarantees he made on business loans.

Barbara May, who served as Hecker's bankruptcy attorney, said she has been in contact with him since his release from prison.

"He sounds fabulous," May said. "He's upbeat, he's really looking forward to moving on. He's got lots of business ideas."

He was scheduled to be released Thursday barring any late complications, May said. He has lined up a car, a job and a place to live, she said.

Though Hecker had been scheduled to be released from prison in 2018, the early date was due to his participation in a drug counseling program while incarcerated, May said.

Asked about his immediate plans, she said "He's going out with me for dinner."

Hecker plans to remain in the Twin Cities where he has family, May said.

Convicts in halfway houses live under quite a few restrictions, May noted. So Hecker's expected release is his first real taste of freedom in years.

His downfall came during the 2008 recession and his extravagant lifestyle drew a lot of local media attention to his case. During the bankruptcy, he auctioned off countless possessions — from luxury watches to cars and boats.

Hecker stayed in the news even while serving time. He married his girlfriend, Christi Rowan, via telephone. Rowan herself served a year for her role in helping Hecker stash money related to his fraud charges.

Hecker had been incarcerated at numerous prisons during his sentence. including Duluth, Colorado and his last stop — Pekin, Ill.

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