A federal grand jury today indicted sports car manufacturer John Z. De Lorean on nine drug charges, saying he gave all the stock in his faltering automobile company to an FBI undercover agent in return for profits from an alleged multimillion dollar cocaine deal.
Shortly after 6 p.m. (PST), De Lorean, accompanied by his model-actress wife, Cristina Ferrare, was driven out of the federal correctional institution at Terminal Island in a black Jaguar sedan. De Lorean said nothing to reporters.
After leaving the prison, De Lorean's car was involved in a minor accident on the Santa Monica Freeway. No one was injured, and the De Loreans continued on their way. A spokesman said De Lorean planned to fly to his home in New York.
Earlier, De Lorean had posted collateral on a $10 million bond. A U.S. magistrate had doubled De Lorean's bail from $5 million to $10 million.
To make the bond, De Lorean's attorney presented a certified check for $250,000 and said he was offering as collateral the deeds to a De Lorean country estate in San Diego County valued at $3.7 million and a New York cooperative apartment valued at $5 million as well as a pledge of property in New Jersey for which he did not give a specific value.
"I have no reaction whatsoever to the indictment because I haven't read" it, said Joseph Ball, an attorney for De Lorean.
Last week, another attorney for De Lorean said his client would plead not guilty to any charges.
De Lorean's attorneys have repeatedly declined requests for opportunities to interview him.
De Lorean, 57, had been in the correctional institution at Terminal Island since he was arrested by federal agents at the Sheraton Plaza La Reina Hotel Oct. 19.
If convicted on the nine counts in the indictment and given the maximum sentence, De Lorean could face 72 years in prison and a $195,000 fine.
The 18-page indictment, released by U.S. Attorney Stephen S. Trott at a news conference today, adds some detail to the story of De Lorean's alleged involvement with William Morgan Hetrick, 50, also indicted today along with his associate, Stephen Lee Arrington, 34.
The indictment said De Lorean flew with Hetrick from Los Angeles to Hetrick's alleged drug smuggling base in Mojave, Calif., Sept. 21 and mailed "a promissory note and evidence of collateral" to an undercover agent associated with Hetrick on Sept. 23.
The indictment charged that both acts furthered De Lorean's alleged role as a financier for what was to be the importation of as much as $25 million in cocaine from Colombia. Federal officials said De Lorean wanted the cash to save his faltering auto company.
The indictment also said that on Sept. 29 De Lorean "sent stock certificates representing 100 percent of the stock of De Lorean Motor Co. Inc. to an undercover agent using the name James Benedict in San Carlos, Calif."
The agent has been identified as FBI agent Benedict Tisa, who was posing as an officer of the Eureka Federal Savings and Loan Association in San Carlos interested in laundering money for Hetrick's alleged drug business.
A federal affadavit filed at the time of De Lorean's arrest said he and federal agents posing as drug dealers had agreed to finance a series of cocaine and heroin shipments.
De Lorean was allegedly to receive all profits from the ventures until they reached $60 million and then turn over half of his interest in his company to a Drug Enforcement Administration agent posing as drug dealer John Vicenza. His transfer of the stock in late September appears to be a good-faith gesture under that arrangement.
De Lorean's automobile plant in Northern Ireland, where he was producing the De Lorean sports car, has been closed by the British government, and in Detroit the company has filed for protection under bankruptcy laws.
Although federal officials have estimated De Lorean's worth at $78 million, at least $50 million of that was his interest in the company, and much of his financial empire seems about to collapse.
According to the indictment, De Lorean is charged with one count of conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine, one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine, one count of distribution of cocaine, three counts of interstate travel in aid of racketeering and three counts of using communications facilities in drug violations.
One of the counts of using a communications facility to violate drug laws involved De Lorean's alleged use of a Federal Express overnight mail service to send the stock certificates to Tisa.
The indictment charges Hetrick with conducting a "continuing criminal enterprise" involving narcotics violations.
The charge is far more serious than any made against De Lorean, in that it carries a 10-year-to-life prison term and $100,000 fine plus forfeiture of interest in and profits from the enterprise. Hetrick remains in prison on $20 million bail and Arrington on $250,000 bail.
The indictment lists several properties belonging to Hetrick and subject to forfeiture to the government under the charge, including his Morgan Aviation company in the Mojave Desert, two properties in Kern County, Calif., four boats, five airplanes, 13 automobiles, including three Cadillacs, and bank accounts in Filmore, Tehachapi, Mojave, Ventura, and Santa Barbara, Calif., and Henderson, Nev.
Trott said De Lorean must return to Los Angeles for an arraignment proceeding Nov. 8. The terms of his bail require him to check in twice a week with federal authorities in New York or California. CAPTION: Picture, John Z. De Lorean is embraced by his wife, model-actress Cristina Ferrare, upon leaving Terminal Island on $10 million bond. AP