MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Denny Hecker's highest-paid confidant has been sentenced to 27 months in federal prison for his role in a fraud scheme that brought down the auto dealer's empire that once did $6 billion in annual sales.

Steven Leach was also ordered to pay $14 million in restitution for the fraud that cost auto lenders millions of dollars. The 55-year-old Leach faced up to 57 months behind bars. Leach asked for probation.

Leach told federal Judge Joan Ericksen in court Tuesday that he was remorseful for his actions and will always regret his participation. He worked for Hecker's auto dealerships for 20 years and admitted falsifying documents to obtain financing for auto fleets.

Hecker is scheduled for sentencing Friday.

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