In October, former automobile dealer Denny Hecker made the news when he was scheduled to be transferred from prison to a Twin Cities halfway house. As most Minnesotans know, Hecker was once the owner of 26 automobile dealerships across the state, but he was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2011 after pleading guilty to wire fraud, which amounted to $767 million in bad loans.
Most white collar crime cases don’t get anything like that kind of coverage. Because, generally speaking, these types of illegal acts aren’t as dramatic or frightening as, say, most violent crimes. Or even things like child pornography charges, because there tends to be an inherent level of shaming and disgust media outlets can tap into by reporting them.
Hecker is different because he was essentially a celebrity in our state. Everyone knew his name. Which meant that more people were interested in hearing about him and his fate.
What’s the point?
Recently we told you that the number of Minnesota white collar crime cases have sunk to the lowest level in 20 years. That’s true.
Combined with the fact that so few of these cases receive media attention, you could be forgiven for thinking that this means no one is getting prosecuted for them. In reality, though, nothing could be further from the truth.
Real Stats and Real Stories of White Collar Crime in Minnesota
In 2016 and 2017, financial fraud crimes have made up about half of the total caseload of federal indictments. This year, they comprised 17 of 35 cases in Minnesota federal court.
These are cases that have cost alleged victims over $74 million, and led to incredibly harsh consequences for many of the people who were charged.
Here are just a few of those cases to highlight my point:
- Bryan Reichel, former CEO of PureChoice, Inc. was convicted for over $25 million in investment fraud. He was sentenced to 22 years in prison and ordered to pay $22.3 million in restitution.
- Jeffrey Kluge of St. Paul was sentenced to a 50-month prison term and ordered to pay over $8 million in restitution for 15 years of bank fraud in his former work as an Merrill Lynch executive.
- Ronald Johnson convinced four investors into giving him $2.1 million for a fake RV park.
- Seng Xiong, 49, falsely promised Twin Cities residents several benefits and secured $1.7 million in the fraud scheme.
- John Burwood Robinson pled guilty to charges of stealing $1.2 million at his place of employment, North Central Stamping and Manufacturing in Blaine.
- Julie Ann Lee, once the controller for the St. Paul’s Town & Country Club on the Mississippi River, has been charged with embezzling over $1 million in eight years from the club.
- Jeremy R. Lundin from Mound has been charged on securities fraud of over $1 million.
- John Heath from Edina used his capacity as a financial adviser to take $220,000 from an incapacitated man in his 80s.
- Wallace David Gregerson, head of Lighting Affiliates in Minneapolis, was sentenced to 42 months in prison after he used company pension funds to fund his personal expenses.
- In another national case that has effects here in Minnesota, PHH Home Loans has agreed to pay $74 million in restitution for home loans that did not meet government regulations. PHH is based in New Jersey, but has an operating branch in Edina. PHH admitted to certifying Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans that failed to adhere to government guidelines.
As you can see, plenty of white collar crimes are being prosecuted. Moreover, law enforcement officers are always on the lookout for big white collar cases because they tend to involve so much money and harm so many people.
Because of this, it is important that you understand the various illegal acts in Minnesota that are classified as white collar crimes, as well as the penalties associated with them.
Understanding White Collar Crime Laws in Minnesota
White collar crime can take several forms, but all of them involve the taking money or property through deception or coercion with no acts of violence. Here are several categories of white collar crime that are punishable under Minnesota law:
- General fraud
- Securities fraud
- Insurance fraud
- Mail fraud
- Wire fraud
- Money laundering
- Tax evasion
Penalties for white collar crimes depend on the total of the alleged theft. For example, in an embezzlement case, the law states that an act of embezzlement with a total of $2,500 or less carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and $10,000 in fines. Embezzlement involving more than $2,500 in total can result in up to 10 years in prison, up to $20,000 in fines, or both.
A person accused of committing white collar crimes may be a family member, caretaker, financial adviser, business executive, corporate manager, or someone else entirely. Quite often, targets for white collar crimes are senior citizens, but banks, small businesses, and insurance companies can also be targets, and anyone can be a victim.
As we previously reported, technology has increased the complexity of white collar crime. The result of this, though, is that investigators are cracking down even harder on individuals prosecuted for white collar crimes to spread the message that similar acts by others won’t be tolerated.
Battling Minnesota White Collar Crime Charges
What can you do if you are facing charges of a white collar crime? The most helpful thing you can go is contact an experienced white collar crime attorney immediately for guidance and protection. You should not answer any questions from authorities without the presence of your lawyer. Your freedoms and livelihood may be at risk, so it’s crucial to secure legal assistance as soon as charges are filed or you learn that you are under investigation.
About the Author:
Christopher Keyser is a Minneapolis-based criminal and DWI defense attorney known for fighting aggressively for his clients and utilizing innovative tactics to get the most positive results. He has been featured in numerous media outlets due to the breadth and depth of his knowledge, and recognized as a Minnesota Super Lawyers Rising Star (2014–2015), a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013–2015), and a Top 40 Under 40 Attorney (2013–2015).