Former auto maker John Z. DeLorean was indicted yesterday on charges of diverting to his personal use nearly $9 million raised to finance the development of a luxury sports car.
The 15-count indictment, returned by a federal grand jury in Detroit, charged DeLorean with racketeering, mail fraud, wire fraud, interstate transportion of stolen money and income tax evasion.
DeLorean, 60, faces 87 years in prison and $82,000 in fines if convicted. He told reporters in New York that he knew nothing about the indictment and referred questions to his Los Angeles attorney, Howard Weitzman. Weitzman could not be reached for comment.
DeLorean was not arrested and is to be arraigned Friday.
The indictment comes 13 months after DeLorean was acquitted of cocaine trafficking charges in a lengthy Los Angeles trial that attracted worldwide publicity. Prosecutors used videotapes to support charges that DeLorean turned to cocaine to rescue his faltering car company, but DeLorean's lawyers persuaded the jury that he was entrapped by the government.
The new charges likewise stem from DeLorean's efforts to raise money to save the sports car company he started in Northern Ireland in 1972. The company collapsed in 1982, and the FBI and Internal Revenue Service began an investigation after bankruptcy proceedings revealed that more than $17 million in company funds was missing.
The grand jury charged that DeLorean, through a complicated series of bank transactions, laundered some of the money raised for research and development on the gull-winged sports car. About $8.9 million ended up in DeLorean's personal Citibank account in New York and was used to repay personal loans and buy jewelry, according to yesterday's indictment.
William Haddad, a businessman and journalist who worked for DeLorean until a bitter break in 1981, cooperated with the probe by the U.S. attorney in Detroit.
"It was a scam from the start, before we ever broke ground in Belfast," said Haddad, whose new book, "Hard Driving -- My Years With John DeLorean," alleges that DeLorean diverted company funds.
Haddad said DeLorean Motor Co. had attracted many talented executives who "were on the verge of producing an exciting car. His need to go for the golden ring really destroyed the company. It was a dream that could have happened if John had not set it up as a scam."
Questions about missing funds were initially raised in a suit against DeLorean by the company's trustees. The company's largest creditor is the British government, which put $101 million into the Belfast plant where the "dream car" named for DeLorean was made.
Beginning in October 1978, according to the indictment, De Lorean diverted money from a related firm, DeLorean Research Limited Partnership, and his partners in the enterprise. The limited partnership raised about $18.7 million from investors for development of the sports car.
Most of that money was earmarked for a contract with GPD Services, a Panamanian corporation, which in turn subcontracted with Lotus Cars Ltd. of Norwich, England, to develop the car.
But the indictment said only $137,167 of the money reached Lotus. Another $8.5 million paid to GPD by the partnership, plus interest, was "funneled to DeLorean," according to the indictment.
That money was placed in an escrow account by a Swiss attorney for DeLorean, invested in various European banks, moved through foreign corporations to a Netherlands bank and then shifted to DeLorean's personal account at Citibank, the indictment said. It said the money was returned in the form of an unsecured personal loan to DeLorean.
DeLorean is charged with spending this money for his personal benefit.The indictment said he used most of it to pay off loans he had used to acquire Logan Manufacturing Co., which makes snow-smoothing equipment in Logan, Utah.
An additional $435,000 of the money was invested in Citicorp notes and later spent by DeLorean on personal items, the indictment said. It said $28,000 was spent on jewelry and $71,000 was moved to DeLorean's personal bank account in Pontiac, Mich., for personal expenses. The rest of the missing $17 million is unaccounted for.
DeLorean reported adjusted gross income of $118,946 in 1978 when he should have reported $8.5 million, the grand jury charged. It said he reported $57,268 in 1979 income instead of $458,383.
The charges are the latest setback for the former General Motors executive, who weathered a bitter divorce from his wife of 11 years, former model Cristina Ferrare, after the cocaine trial.
Haddad said he believed that DeLorean's interest in an alleged cocaine deal -- one government videotape showed DeLorean saying a suitcase full of cocaine was "good as gold" -- stemmed from fear that the diverted funds would be discovered if the car company was forced into bankruptcy.
Haddad said his investigative efforts, and those of British authorities, were stymied by DeLorean's use of foreign banks. But, he said, "John's overseas transactions had been recorded electronically, rather than the old-fashioned way with pieces of paper. The trail led to the New York banks."
Haddad said a key break in the case came when an appraiser in the bankruptcy proceedings, who was inspecting DeLorean's $3 million estate in Bedminster, N.J., found records marked DeLorean Motor Co. These were later seized.