A prominent European high-tech executive was arrested Wednesday at his Bel-Air estate on suspicion of posing as a police officer to buy at least one gun, widening an international investigation that began with the crash of a rare Ferrari in Malibu.
Carl Freer, 35, allegedly flashed a badge from an obscure San Gabriel Valley transit authority and said he was a sworn police officer so that he could purchase a gun from a dealer without the required background checks, authorities said.
Los Angeles County sheriff's detectives said they found 12 rifles and four handguns during searches at the Swedish national's home in the Bel-Air community and on his 100-foot yacht docked at Marina del Rey.
A statement released through the Sitrick and Co. public relations firm quoted Freer's attorney as denying that the executive did anything wrong.
"This is the result of a misunderstanding over the purchase of a gun, which we hope to resolve in the coming days," attorney Michael B. Miller said in the statement. "At no time did Mr. Freer misrepresent himself to a gun shop."
Freer is the former managing director of Gizmondo, a once high-flying European video game player company that went bankrupt last year and is now the subject of several investigations. A fellow executive, Bo Stefan Eriksson, has been accused of crashing an Enzo Ferrari on Pacific Coast Highway while drunk in February.
Freer and Eriksson were also members of the "anti-terrorism unit" of the San Gabriel Valley Transit Authority, a small private company that provides rides to disabled people and the elderly in Monrovia and Sierra Madre.
The men served as advisors and were not sworn officers. But the agency issued both men cards, and Freer received a gold shield with "deputy commissioner" embossed on it.
Until now, detectives were puzzled about why two Bel-Air businessmen would be involved in an obscure transit agency.
But sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said Wednesday that officials now believe Freer used the badge to buy one weapon and in at least one case, signed a sworn document saying he was a police officer.
Neither Freer nor Eriksson would be allowed to purchase guns in the U.S. because they are foreign nationals, Whitmore said.
"We have a wider investigation into who was given police identification by this supposed police agency," he added.
Miller, however, said in the statement that Freer "never misused the SGVTA badge."
Freer was arrested on suspicion of perjury for allegedly signing a declaration for the gun dealer that he was a police officer to obtain a .44 magnum handgun. Investigators are checking the background of the other weapons seized to determine how he obtained them, Whitmore said.
Detectives are still trying to determine what role the transit authority plays in the case. After deputies arrived at the scene of the Feb. 21 Ferrari crash, Eriksson showed them a card saying he was a deputy police commissioner for the agency.
A few minutes later, two men who identified themselves as "homeland security" officials arrived and spoke to Eriksson.
The transit agency has five buses and operates out of a garage in Monrovia. The two cities that had agreements with the agency have since canceled them.
"I think it's safe to say the house of cards is falling down," said Sierra Madre City Manager John Gillison of the latest revelations. "We were uncomfortable with a lot of the events and circumstances surrounding the San Gabriel Valley Transit Authority."
Eriksson faces a preliminary hearing today on embezzlement, grand theft, drunk driving and firearms charges. Prosecutors charge that Eriksson possessed the destroyed Enzo Ferrari and the rest of a $3.8-million exotic car collection although it was owned by British financial institutions.
According to court records, Eriksson spent five years in Swedish prison for assault, counterfeiting and narcotics offenses before becoming an executive with Gizmondo.
Freer was well-known in Europe's gaming world as managing partner of an upstart company that sought to challenge Nintendo and SonyPlaystation with a gaming system.
Gizmondo received much publicity, and Freer was hailed in British newspapers as a young gun. At the gala opening of the company's London office, he arrived in a Rolls-Royce.
But users found Gizmondo didn't have enough hot games to compete with the bigger names. The company filed for bankruptcy with more than $300 million in debt.
Although no one was seriously injured in the Ferrari crash, the investigation has generated significant attention because of the strange circumstances surrounding it and the fact that it destroyed one of only 400 Enzos ever built. Authorities believe the car was traveling at 162 mph when it hit a power pole.
Ashley Posner, an attorney who was chairman of the transit board when the Ferrari case broke, said in an interview Wednesday that he resigned after the accident.
Posner, who at one time was Eriksson's civil attorney, said he was surprised by the continuing revelations. When asked if the agency made clear to Freer that the badge did not give him police powers, Posner said: "Absolutely."