Michael Hudalla plays fast and loose

Motorcycle mogul faces the music

Michael Hudalla gripped the handlebars and relaxed his knees, bracing for the curve. It was a hot summer day and the road coiled with twists and turns. His fire-engine-red Ducati spewed a shuddering, violent thunder as though heralding the apocalypse.

On this screaming, wild machine, Hudalla traversed the 1,242 miles to Orlando, Florida, for the annual Yamaha sales conference, to buy bikes to sell at his Minneapolis dealership, Trackstar Motorsports.

Hudalla owned the coolest cycle shop in the Midwest and boasted the broadest selection of café motorcycles: Ducati, Moto Guzzi, Laverda, and Triumphs from Europe, along with Yamahas and Suzukis from Japan.

Michael Hudalla
courtesy of Jay Golden
Michael Hudalla
When he married in Scotland, Hudalla flew in his three closest friends
courtesy of Jay Golden
When he married in Scotland, Hudalla flew in his three closest friends

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Each weekend, the dealership brimmed with men clad in rock 'n' roll T-shirts, leather jackets, and knee sliders scuffed from scraping the ground on tight corners.

"Michael was—and attracted—a lot of extremely talented motorcyclists who loved to race," says Jim Schwebel, an attorney and Trackstar customer. "These guys were like the NASCAR racers: They were young, clean, lean, and lived for speed."

Hudalla had a way of making people feel at home when they came by the shop. Bouncers and mechanics liked being around the store so much they volunteered to work for him in return for a discount on merchandise.

Hudalla was a celebrity in local cycle circles. At events like the Blind Lizard Rally on Nicollet Island, he was feted as the pope.

"Being with Michael gave us this elite status," says Jay Golden, one of his best friends at the time. "It was kind of like being a rock star."

Hudalla wore expensive clothes, lived in a Mendota Heights mansion, and zipped around town in a bright yellow Ferrari. Even his petite wife fit the fantasy: a sales rep for Yamaha, she shared his love of bikes.

Hudalla's life seemed too good to be true. Turns out it was.

Last October, Hennepin County prosecutors charged Hudalla with two felony counts of racketeering in connection with a series of bizarre financial transactions at his company, Enzo Mortgage Group. The firm—likely named for racing magnate Enzo Anselmo Ferrari—was Hudalla's biggest venture.

Court documents allege Hudalla made at least $317,000 in illegal kickbacks at the expense of multiple victims. If convicted, he could face penalties of $2 million and up to 40 years in prison.

Now Hudalla's many friends in the local motorcycle community are trying to make sense of his secret life.

Says Tracy Wall, who dated him briefly in the late '80s, "I was surprised he did it to his friends."

   

MICHAEL HUDALLA CUT an imposing figure as a bouncer of the Uptown Bar in the late 1980s.

Cruising the usual lunch crowd one day, he sidled into a black vinyl booth across from Scott Halverson, a rugged 26-year-old who had been spending a lot of time in the neighborhood since moving back from New York.

Hudalla offered good news: There was an opening for a bouncer if Halverson was interested. But then the conversation took an oddly personal turn.

In a flat affect, Hudalla casually mentioned that he couldn't go home to Ohio. When Halverson asked why, Hudalla explained that his whole family had burned to death in a tragic fire, and the memory of the incident was too traumatic to relive.

So it came as quite a surprise some years later when Hudalla offered him another job: working for Hudalla's mom.

Sure enough, when Halverson showed up for the first day of training, Mrs. Hudalla had skin like that in a Dove commercial—no scars or any other evidence of having survived a fire.

"She certainly didn't look like she was dead," Halverson says. "I'm no doctor, but I would have to say he was perhaps a pathological liar."

Broad-shouldered and towering over six feet tall, Hudalla would have made for an intimidating bouncer if he weren't trying to be everybody's friend.

"He was definitely a guy that most people knew," says Halverson. "He was a very gregarious, friendly guy and he was at the door at the Uptown Bar a lot."

Late at night, after the bands went home and the bar closed, Hudalla kept the good times going. He'd coax stragglers to ride up to Duluth, arriving just in time to catch the sunrise over a cup of coffee.

One weekend, he and a dozen bikers took an impromptu camping trip to Carleton Peak near Tofte. They biked at night and pitched their tents in the dark. They zoomed to Clyde's Fisherman Bar in Grand Marais to play pool, then raced back to Minneapolis just in time for work on Sunday.

"It was kind of this raucous, boho scene of alt people," says Kurt Kueffner, a bike enthusiast. "It was a really attractive and seductive kind of culture."

Weekends, Hudalla and his café motorcycle crew could be found at Bob's Java Hut on Lyndale Avenue. In the afternoons, they played pinball at the CC Club. Nights were spent at the Uptown or First Avenue.

"It was the same thing, week after week, but it was great," says Leah Wilkes, an Uptown waitress and one of the few women in the group. "It was a good community to hang out in."

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