POSTED: 4:50 pm PDT October 23, 2006
UPDATED: 9:02 pm PDT October 23, 2006
LOS ANGELES — A Swedish businessman’s scheme to defraud British banks that loaned him money for two fancy sports cars almost worked until he crashed a rare, $1.5 million Ferrari in Malibu earlier this year, a prosecutor said Monday.
Deputy District Attorney Tamara Hall made the claim during her opening statement at the grand theft and embezzlement trial of Bo Stefan Eriksson.
She said his elaborate plan to lease the cars in Britain then ship them to California began to unravel amid the widespread media attention given to the Feb. 21 crash. The scheme was “almost pulled off without a trace,” Hall told jurors. While living in Britain last year, Eriksson leased three cars — a black Ferrari Enzo, a red Ferrari Enzo and a Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren — through three different British banks.
A short time later, he moved to Los Angeles and had the cars shipped there, even though the lease agreements did not allow him to take the vehicles out of Britain, Hall said.
After the cars cleared U.S. customs and Eriksson obtained insurance, he stopped making payments on the black Enzo and the Mercedes, she said, adding that he avoided detection by the banks until plowing the red Enzo into a utility pole on Pacific Coast Highway at 162 mph.
“Unbeknownst to them, Mr. Eriksson was living it up and sporting those vehicles right here in the U.S.,” Hall said.
When the banks tried to repossess the cars, she said, Eriksson refused to give them back.
Eriksson, 44, is a former executive of the now-bankrupt video game company Gizmondo Europe. Authorities contend he was drunk when he crashed the Enzo. Last week, Eriksson pleaded no contest to the drunken driving charge. The plea is not an admission of guilt but is equivalent to a guilty plea for sentencing, which will occur after the current trial.
The defense disputed Hall’s opening statement, contending the vehicles were brought to the U.S. legitimately, and the banks knew their whereabouts.
In his opening statement, attorney Jim Parkman, who represents Eriksson, told jurors his client hired attorneys and other specialists to help transport the vehicles and to clear customs.
“When he moved the cars here, he didn’t move them in the middle of the night,” Parkman said. “They came here by legitimate means.”
In addition, Eriksson did not conceal the cars after resettling in the city’s swanky Bel-Air neighborhood, the lawyer said, explaining that he took them to a Ferrari dealership to have them serviced and even displayed the cars at a Las Vegas auto show. Parkman said Ferrari is able to track any vehicles it services.
“The banks knew about the trip to Vegas,” he said. “There wasn’t one word mentioned of stealing or embezzlement of any kind.”
Authorities originally accused Eriksson of stealing the red Enzo from a British bank but dropped those charges last week.
Eriksson, who has a criminal record in Sweden for extortion, assault and other crimes, will be tried separately on a felony charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm — a . 357-Magnum handgun authorities said was found in his Bel-Air home during an April search.
If convicted of the embezzlement, grand theft and gun possession charges, Eriksson could face up to 11 years in prison.