Letter From Los Angeles
The High-Octane Story of the Felon and the Ferrari
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
On a winter dawn on a razor-straight stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, a lipstick-red Ferrari Enzo crested a hill at a speed that sheriff's investigators would later calculate to be 162 miles per hour.
The car -- if that word is not too lame to describe a 660-horsepower V12 rocket on wheels worth $1.6 million, one of only 400 ever made, described variously as "rolling art" and "the greatest performance road car ever" -- went airborne. Perhaps the Enzo thought it could fly? Alas, it careened into a utility pole, which effectively sliced the vehicle in half, and scattered shredded Ferrari bits over a debris field that measured 1,200 feet.
Now the story gets weird. And like many tales involving purloined roadsters, video games, shadowy Irishmen, Malibu and a mysterious pair of dudes masquerading as Homeland Security agents, this one found its way to the criminal courts building in downtown Los Angeles for the formal arraignment yesterday of Bo Stefan M. Eriksson, 44, formerly of Sweden, now being held on $5 million bail at the Men's Central Jail, charged with embezzlement and grand theft auto.
When L.A. County Sheriff's deputies came upon Eriksson on the morning of Feb. 21, they were impressed that he was not only alive, but standing by his disassembled Ferrari. Eriksson claimed he had not been driving. No, he told officers, he was the passenger. It was "Dietrich," the German, who drove. There was a problem, however.
Eriksson did not know Dietrich's last name, or where Dietrich resided, and Dietrich was gone, having allegedly hightailed it on foot into the canyons of Malibu, and despite a lengthy search by law enforcement on ground and from a helicopter, no Dietrich was found, if he ever existed, which police doubt.
Aha. But Eriksson did have a blood alcohol level of 0.09 at 6 in the morning, which would have made him legally drunk, had he been driving. Eriksson suffered a cut on his face and there was blood on the air bag that deployed upon impact -- on the driver's side. DNA was gathered.
Over the next weeks and months, as the Los Angeles Times kept readers abreast of the developments and the exotic-car community mourned the loss of a rare Ferrari, the sheriff's investigators revealed that Eriksson was an executive behind the failed video-game console known as Gizmondo, which was going to rival Sony and Nintendo, except it did not, and the company went bankrupt and owes creditors millions.
We also learned that Eriksson lived in a gated $5 million mansion in Bel Air, and that he was a convicted felon who had served time in Sweden for a string of crimes involving drugs, illegal arms, assault, kidnapping, counterfeiting and forgery, according to court papers. When police searched his home, they also found a Smith & Wesson handgun, which a convicted felon is not allowed to keep.
At the scene of the Ferrari's demise out on the Coast Highway, more bizarreness. According to sheriff's spokesmen, Eriksson had identification purporting to show him as a deputy commissioner of an anti-terrorism police unit of an outfit called the San Gabriel Valley Transit Authority, which maintains a small fleet of vans used to give rides to the elderly and infirm.
While Eriksson was talking with deputies, two other men arrived at the scene of the crash and said they were with the Department of Homeland Security. They spoke with Eriksson and then left. Sheriff's investigators say they do not know who they were. Also on the scene was an Irishman named Trevor Karney, a friend of Eriksson's who might have left a fully loaded gun clip behind at the crash site. Investigators suspect Karney may have fled the country -- on a yacht.
The Times reports that there may also be video of the accident, shot by Eriksson or his associates as they screamed down the road.
Finally, there was not one Ferrari Enzo. There are two. The red one, which was destroyed, and another, a black one, were imported into the United States from England by Eriksson along with a rare Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, though he does not own them. A bank in England apparently does, and no recent payments have been forthcoming, according to a spokesman for the sheriff's department. The three vehicles, valued at $3.8 million, are the center of the L.A. prosecutor's case that Eriksson stole the cars.
Eriksson appeared in court for his arraignment looking haggard in an orange jumpsuit, his hands shackled. He blew a kiss to a woman in a low-cut black dress. He pleaded not guilty to all counts and a bail review was scheduled for next week. Deputy District Attorney Tamara Hall said Eriksson was a flight risk and that when he was arrested April 7, he had an airplane ticket to England. She also revealed that Eriksson admitted he was driving the Ferrari at the time of the accident. Eriksson's attorney, David Elden, told the judge that the cars had been imported into the United States legally, and that their ownership is part of a civil suit.
"The press has really blown this out of proportion," Elden said. "It's really taken on a life of its own." If found guilty of all counts, Eriksson faces 14 years in prison.
Staff writer Sonya Geis contributed to this report.