Bankrupt auto mogul Denny Hecker's legal nightmare took an even darker turn Thursday, after his former father-in-law committed suicide just a week after he was accused of helping Hecker hide about $81,000 from creditors.
Medina Police Sgt. Jason Nelson told The Associated Press that investigators got word from the Hennepin County medical examiner's office about 6:30 p.m. Thursday that William Prohofsky, of Minnetonka, had died. An investigator at the medical examiner's office who declined to give her name confirmed he was dead.
Medina Police Chief Ed Belland said earlier that officers in the small Minneapolis suburb, where Hecker also lives, were called to a vacant office building just before noon Wednesday. They found Prohofsky in his car in the parking lot with a gunshot wound.
"The evidence at the scene indicated it was a self-inflicted gunshot wound," Belland told The Associated Press. Prohofsky was taken by helicopter to North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale.
"Bill Prohofsky is a beloved father, grandfather, brother and uncle," a statement from his family said. "He is near and dear to our hearts and the family is mourning and in shock."
Belland said the vacant building had been occupied by a metal manufacturing company and that Prohofsky had no apparent connection to the location.
Prohofsky, 71, was the stepfather of Hecker's ex-wife, Tamitha. Last week, Prohofsky was sued by the trustee in Hecker's personal bankruptcy case. The suit alleges that Hecker paid Prohofsky $15,000 in exchange for holding $81,000 in an attempt to hide it from the bankruptcy court, pay bills and steer funds to Hecker's girlfriend Christi Rowan.
Hecker's bankruptcy attorney, Bill Skolnick, did not immediately return a call seeking comment. Neither did Randy Seaver, the trustee who filed suit against Prohofsky.
As recently as 2008, Hecker, 57, owned 26 auto dealerships as well as other businesses, and was recognizable around the Twin Cities for his frequent appearances in his own advertising.
But a federal indictment handed down last month says in the fall of 2007, Hecker and a company executive gave fraudulent documents to Chrysler Financial to obtain $80 million in financing to purchase vehicles from Hyundai Motor America. Chrysler Financial issued the loan and lost more than $10 million.
Hecker has pleaded not guilty. His attorney said Chrysler Financial's claims of fraud were spurred by the firm's own money struggles, and that its actions are responsible for Hecker's personal financial collapse. He filed for bankruptcy in June, claiming $787 million in debt and $18.5 million in assets.
Recent weeks have seen Hecker's struggles accumulate. Last week, the judge in his federal case denied a request that his court-ordered confinement to his Medina home be lifted so he could visit his northern Minnesota cabin; and on Tuesday, the judge in his divorce case denied his request to shift $100,000 from a retirement account in order to pay for his criminal defense attorney.
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