MINNEAPOLIS -- Former auto dealer Denny Hecker, 58, faces up to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty here last week to conspiracy and bankruptcy fraud.
He originally was charged with multiple counts that could have put him behind bars for decades.
U.S. prosecutors said Hecker's lawyer asked for a plea deal.
"What this says is that the rules apply to everyone," said Nicole Engisch, the lead prosecutor in the case. "And if you're going to use our bankruptcy system, you have to play by the rules."
Hecker's sentencing has not been scheduled.
One of his court-appointed lawyers, Barbara May, said, "Denny wants me to say that this is a business deal gone bad," referring to the charges against him. "He feels bad that it got out of control and the business deal went sour."
Hecker formerly owned a group of 15 dealerships based in Minnesota and a large leasing company, Rosedale Leasing Co. Hecker filed for bankruptcy in June 2009, owing $767 million largely because of personal guarantees on business loans. The bankruptcy trustee handling his case quickly uncovered assets that Hecker had not reported.
Hecker chose not to fight those allegations in U.S. Bankruptcy Court and agreed that his debt would not be forgiven. He will be on the hook for any debt that remains after his assets are liquidated, a process that is expected to continue for at least another year.
MaryJo Webster is a reporter for the St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press, where a version of this story first appeared.