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Tom Olsen, Forum News Service, Published October 10 2013

Man with 44 arrests in 18 Minnesota counties sentenced to prison

DULUTH, Minn. – In the annals of crime, Richard Donald Hegquist, 37, won’t rank up there with Chicago’s Al Capone or Boston’s Whitey Bulger.

But with a string of 44 arrests in 18 Minnesota counties since 1996, the Ham Lake resident finally made the big time in the eyes of prosecutors.

Hegquist, who has 12 prior felony convictions and whose criminal career has involved 59 different court cases, was sentenced on Wednesday to nearly six years in prison in a case involving a robbery at the Hermantown Car and Pet Wash in July. He was sentenced in State District Court in Duluth to serve 71 months in prison, an above-guideline sentence that was agreed to in a plea agreement.

Because of his criminal history, Hegquist was eligible to receive maximum sentences for the three offenses with which he originally was charged. Had the case gone to a jury trial, prosecutors would have sought to have him tried as a career offender, which could have resulted in a 40-year prison sentence.

Hegquist originally faced charges of first-degree aggravated robbery, simple robbery and possession of burglary or theft of tools. Under the terms of the plea agreement, he pleaded guilty to a second-degree burglary charge.

Hegquist declined to address the court before he was sentenced. A call for comment to Hegquist’s attorney was not returned.

Chain of arrests

Court documents and other records indicate what began as a low-level arrest for underage drinking eventually gave way to a chain of arrests for a series of acts ranging from passing bad checks to robbery.

In 1996, Hegquist had his first recorded arrest for underage consumption of alcohol at age 20. His first felony drug charge came in 2004, for possession of marijuana. After that, he saw a string of charges for theft by check, forgery and theft by swindle charges all in the same year.

His first burglary charge came in 2005. Later that year, he was found guilty of the theft by check charge, his first conviction. That case was the first of several financial crimes that later included a felonious aggravated forgery conviction.

Since 2005, Hegquist also has been convicted in numerous property theft and burglary cases, pleading guilty to first-degree damage to property, taking property without consent, receiving stolen property and theft of gasoline, among others.

In his latest criminal endeavor, Hegquist brandished a screwdriver and punched the owner of the car and pet wash in the mouth during the burglary, according to the criminal complaint in the case.

He got away with $100 from a change machine but caused an estimated $1,400 in damage, the owner told police.

This latest case isn’t his first involving theft from a coin-operated machine – Hegquist was charged with similar offenses in 2007, 2010 and 2012.

This was the first case involving Hegquist in St. Louis County. According to the complaint, he admitted to breaking into the change machine because he was “getting low on cash and didn’t want to return back to Ham Lake without any money.”