POSTED: 3:56 pm PST October 31, 2006
LOS ANGELES — Closing argument are set for Wednesday in the trial of Bo Stefan Eriksson, the Swedish businessman linked to the crash in February of a Ferrari Enzo on Pacific Coast Highway.
Eriksson faces five felony charges, including grand theft auto and embezzlement, involving a black Ferrari Enzo and black Mercedes-Benz McLaren that prosecutors contend were illegally shipped to the country from the United Kingdom.
Eriksson pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor drunken driving count. He was tried separately on a weapons charge — gun possession by a felon — stemming from the discovery of a .357- Magnum Smith and Wesson in his Bel-Air home during an April 7 search. In her opening statement to the six-man, six-woman jury, Deputy District Attorney Tamara Hall said the British banks did not know Eriksson had left the United Kingdom when they began to try and repossess the cars after he allegedly defaulted on lease payments in October 2005.
After the three cars were shipped to this country, U.S. Customs officials delayed releasing them to Eriksson for two months while they examined the chain of ownership, Hall said.
Eriksson avoided detection by the bank officials until the Malibu crash, which generated worldwide attention because the red Ferrari Enzo was so rare, Hall said. Attorney Jim Parkman said Customs officials gave Eriksson permission to take the cars.
The black Ferrari later became the subject of a civil action in Los Angeles by one of the British banks, Parkman said. To help the bank, a sheriff’s detective encouraged the filing of a stolen-car report so he could get a warrant and search Eriksson’s $6 million Bel-Air home for evidence of a possible “chop shop,” the lawyer said.
In such operations, vehicles are illegally dismantled and their parts sold to unsuspecting buyers. But the warrant turned up no evidence of any such operation by Eriksson, Parkman said.
Two other felony counts — embezzlement and grand theft auto — involving the crashed Ferrari were dismissed after Hall announced the prosecution was unable to proceed on those charges.
Just hours before jury selection began, Eriksson turned down a last-minute plea offer that would have sent him to state prison for two years and four months if he pleaded no contest to four of the five charges against him.
“I cannot agree that I stole the car because I didn’t,” the 44-year- old former executive of the now bankrupt video game company Gizmondo Europe told Judge Patricia M. Schnegg.
Eriksson was charged nearly two months after crashing the red Ferrari — fewer than 400 such cars exist in the world — on Pacific Coast Highway while driving at what authorities said was more than 160 mph. He initially told investigators he was not driving the car, but later admitted he had been behind the wheel. The two misdemeanor DUI counts stemmed from that crash.
The McLaren was subsequently seized by police after Eriksson’s common-law wife, Nicole, who did not have a driver’s license, was pulled over in the car in Beverly Hills.
Eriksson has prior convictions in Stockholm, Sweden, for various offenses, including assault, drug and firearms charges and gross fraud by means of document forgery.