Eriksson couldn’t have his cake and eat it too (photo: www.engadget.com)
We’ll never know what would have happened in the Enzo retrial, because Eriksson abruptly accepted a plea bargain
The Ferrari Enzo crash was one of the biggest Internet car stories of 2006, the highest trafficked “Legal Files” on our web site (www.sportscarmarket.com) and a story with more plot twists and turns than the best whodunnit. Now, it’s over.
The embezzled Enzo broken in half at 199 miles per hour; Bo Stefan Eriksson, the Swedish felon; Dietrich the Mystery Man; the Gizmondo bankruptcy; the little bus company with an anti-terrorism task force; the reputed Swedish mafia ties; all recently left the public stage with a whimper following an abrupt plea bargain.
In case you’re new to the story, Bo Eriksson, reputed Swedish mafia bill collector, lived the high life as an executive of Gizmondo, Inc. On the way to Gizmondo’s bankruptcy, Eriksson somehow managed to export two Ferrari Enzos and a McLaren SLR to the United States, in violation of their leases with two British banks. Soon after, Eriksson became a permanent part of collector car history one night when he crashed the red Enzo into a power pole at 199 mph, sustaining only a bloody lip. The Enzo, however, didn’t fare as well, and wound up spread over 1,200 feet of Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu in two large, and innumerable small, broken pieces.
Reluctant to take responsibility, Eriksson told police that a recent casual acquaintance named “Dietrich,” whom he really didn’t know how to find, was actually driving the Enzo and took off running over the hill after the crash. After DNA tests established it was Eriksson’s blood on the driver’s airbag, he acknowledged that “Dietrich” really wasn’t there, and faced multiple charges of drunk driving, weapons charges, and embezzlement and grand theft for spiriting the two Enzos out of England.
BLONDE SWEDISH INTERPRETERS
The investigation had numerous twists and turns (reported ably by the Los Angeles Times) and quickly spread across the Internet. We certainly expected the same from the legal case, but with little explanation, prosecutors dropped two of the embezzlement and grand theft charges against Eriksson after the London bank who owned one of the Enzos declined to meet with prosecutors. Immediately after, Eriksson rejected a proposed plea bargain that would have resulted in 28 months in prison, but he did plead guilty to the drunk driving charge. He then faced trial on the remaining charges.
Although many people were looking forward to the trial, most accounts described it as a boring examination of a lot of paperwork, although blonde Swedish interpreters with red fingernails created some memorable moments.
PROSECUTORS PLEDGED RETRIAL
After deliberation, the jury reported that it was hopelessly deadlocked, and the judge declared a mistrial. The count was 10-2 guilty, but California requires a unanimous verdict for conviction. Eriksson’s defense attorney praised the jury for its hard work and excellent outcome. Prosecutors immediately pledged to retry Eriksson.
ONLY ONE MORE YEAR IN PRISON
But we’ll never know what would have happened in the retrial, because Eriksson abruptly accepted a plea bargain a few days later. He pleaded guilty to two counts of embezzlement regarding the Ferraris, and one count of unlawful possession of a handgun. In return for the guilty pleas, he will receive a sentence of three years in prison followed by three years of parole. With credit for time served, he is expected to face only one more year in prison. Plus, he will also face a $5,000 fine, an undetermined amount of restitution, and likely deportation.
I contacted criminal defense expert Steve Thayer and who previously evaluated the case for “Legal Files” (October 2006, p. 26). Thayer commented, “The outcome was just as I had predicted. The drunk driving charge was not going to be possible to defend against, so Eriksson entered a guilty plea; Eriksson will likely be deported; and the jury had trouble with the concept that it is criminal to fail to make your car payments. Pleading guilty to the drunk driving charge was probably smart tactics, as it eliminated a lot of damaging and inflammatory evidence from coming in. Still, the 10-2 decision was pretty much a landslide in the wrong direction for Eriksson. Eriksson was well represented, and his attorney likely explained to his client that the retrial was going to involve a lot of additional expense, and that there was a very good chance that he would ultimately be convicted. Given the caliber of the representation, I’m sure he was able to negotiate the best possible deal.”
The Los Angeles case is over, but will Eriksson face additional charges elsewhere? That question involves a lot of complicated interactions of U.S., British, Swedish and international law. Consequently, Thayer cautions it is impossible to predict if Eriksson will face any charges in any other country after his likely deportation.
Meanwhile, the two Enzos and the McLaren SLR have been sent back to England to their bank owners, the handgun has been confiscated, Eriksson’s house is in receivership, the San Gabriel Valley Transit Authority is in receivership, no one knows where mysterious co-conspirator Karney sailed off to, the purported video of the 199-mph crash has yet to surface (although maybe its time is coming), and no one is looking for Dietrich anymore. But wait—it happened in La-La-Land, after all. Can a movie deal be far behind?
JOHN DRANEAS is an attorney and car collector in Oregon. His comments here are general in nature and no substitute for consultation with an attorney. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.