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Daily Glean: Déjà vu du jour: Denny Hecker sued … again

Lawsuits piling up for car dealer. Also: mortgage “mod” troubles and terminal madness over airport signs.

Remember the old Rolling Stones song, “19th Nervous Breakdown”? We’re thinking Denny Hecker might be close to his after being slapped with his 19th law suit in the past year, this one coming from Chrysler Financial which is flat-out accusing Hecker of “fraud” and “forgery.” Dee DePass, the Strib’s go-to gal for Hecker implosions, reports that, “Chrysler claims Hecker requested the money in November 2007 so his Hecker Rosedale Dodge operation could purchase 4,855 vehicles from Hyundai Motor America. It claims that Hecker submitted two offer letters supposedly from Hyundai but that they were “forged” and “countersigned” by Hecker.” Hecker’s attorney defends him by saying, “It is not at all uncommon in personal bankruptcies arising out of the failure of large commercial enterprises such as Mr. Hecker’s for creditors to make these types of claims.” 

Nicole Garrison Sprenger’s story for the Pioneer Press explains further: “By allegedly tricking Chrysler Financial into financing 3,652 nonguaranteed units, Hecker was able to secure lower monthly payments — $128 per vehicle less — from Chrysler Financial, which gives discounts to borrowers who buy guaranteed units. But that wasn’t the only angle Hecker exploited, the complaint says. As an incentive for buying so many vehicles that were not guaranteed units, Hyundai paid Hecker cash incentives totaling more than $15 million.” But he probably threw in a new set of floormats and rust-proofing.

MPR’s Dan Olson wades into the mortgage “mod” (modification) process and finds, not surprisingly, that it isn’t exactly a model of streamlined efficiency. The usual problems are too many strapped homeowners clogging the system, too many falling back into trouble, and too few bank employees doing the actual work. Olson reports, ” … banks don’t have enough staff and haven’t adjusted their computer systems to handle all the requests, according to Barry Zigas, director of housing policy for the Consumer Federation of America. ‘Many consumers tell these horror stories of spending hours on the phone on hold, finally getting ahold of someone, being told to send these materials in, sending them in, following them up, and finding the materials never got there, have been misplaced, are incomplete and have to start the process all over again.‘ ” Other than that, it’s a great system.

MPR also has an AP story up this morning about General Mills recalling Nature Valley Granola Nut Clusters because of salmonella concerns. The product is a bag of bite-size granola clusters sold in stores and vending machines. Wednesday’s recall applies only to the “Nut Lovers” flavor. So just today, hit White Castle for lunch.

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The buzz over those new airport signs, the ones that have to  be changed — at a cost of $2.2 million — to prevent the not-too attentive from confusing Lindbergh with Humphrey, just keeps growing. Alex Ebert has a piece in the Strib explaining — again — why these things cost so much, and local TV stations, including KSTP, are all over this because, well, because reporters rarely look so reporterly as when they’re standing in front of the airport. Says Ebert, “Officials maintained that the changes were long overdue, telling committee members Wednesday that during a recent eight-day stretch, 600 travelers approached an airport information desk lost and in the wrong terminal. That would add up to about 25,000 travelers a year confused by the existing signs. Although this is only a fraction of the 32 million arrivals and departures from Minneapolis-St. Paul, all committee members felt a more traveler-friendly experience was worth the cost.” Don’t trust me around a calculator, but that’s $88 per lost traveler.

Speaking of lost and confused, the comments section is still full of folks thinking this is tax money. Ebert points — early — out that it is not. Although from watching, say, KSTP’s report on the spendy signs, you’d probably assume the $2.2 million was coming out of state tax dollars.

Ordinarily we wouldn’t dignify the following story with a mention, but we know every parent — and every kid still reading the news — will zero in on the tale of the Wisconsin kid who posed as a girl on Facebook, tricked boys into sending him naked pictures of themselves, then tried to blackmail them for sex … but who still wants to get his high school diploma. The PiPress runs an AP story on the twisted tale.

OK, while we’re at it. How about Mara Gottfried’s story, also in the PiPress, about the 47-year-old woman who got in her car and sat on an arrow … as in bow and arrow … that someone had placed pointed tip up in the driver’s seat? “No arrests have been made,” writes Gottfried, “but police are looking into whether the woman’s ex-husband was involved … The car had been locked and police believe the suspect may have had a key to the vehicle.”

The PiPress has another AP story out today — (that’s one way of keeping salary costs down) — reporting that Target’s same-store sales are off 6.2% from a year ago. The story notes that “the Minneapolis-based company says it expects to meet or exceed analyst expectations for second-quarter profit.” But … “Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected a same-store sales decline of 5.6 percent.”

Most likely anyone living west of downtown Minneapolis has heard of, if not knocked back a couple at, Al’s Bar, the all-gray-painted bar at the corner of France Avenue and Excelsior Boulevard. It’s been a neighborhood fixture for 83 years. But now it’s going down, to make way for a 132-unit condo development. The Finance and Commerce staff, who, we’re guessing, have made a couple of Al’s happy hours, alerts readers that Al’s, “is holding a formal, public “Last Call” event from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday.” Whoa, whoa, whoa! Someone is starting a condo complex!?

The popular foodie website, Heavy Table.com, has an ice cream survey up this morning, taste-testing (vanilla) samples from six local cafes and one supermarket brand (Kemps). We generally think of ice cream surveys as a kind of litmus test for advertorial pandering, but the Heavy Table gang rarely hesitates to spare the lash. Of one selection they note, “Two [panelists] observed an unpleasant icy mouthfeel and a chemical-like aftertaste. They said it lacked creaminess and ‘coated the mouth in a strange way.’ ” Ummm, ummm. The winner, predictably enough, was Grand Ole Creamery in St. Paul.