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Businessman Rejects Plea Bargain in Ferrari Case

October 17, 2006|Peter Y. Hong | Times Staff Writer

A Swedish businessman who became notorious after he allegedly crashed an exotic Ferrari sports car in Malibu in April rejected a plea deal Monday that would have had him spend two years and four months in prison.

Instead, Bo Stefan M. Eriksson, 44, will stand trial on seven charges of embezzlement, grand theft auto, firearms possession and drunk driving. He faces a maximum sentence of 11 years and two months if convicted of all counts.

The embezzlement and auto theft charges stem from Eriksson's allegedly bringing a Ferrari and Mercedes to the U.S. without the knowledge of the British banks that held the cars' titles.

Eriksson said through a Swedish interpreter he would not accept a plea bargain because "I cannot agree to that I stole the cars." Eriksson appeared in court in a dark business suit and occasionally smiled as he spoke with his lawyers.

Eriksson allegedly crashed a red 2003 Ferrari Enzo into a utility pole on Pacific Coast Highway on Feb. 21. Authorities said he was driving 162 mph when he crashed the car, reportedly worth $1 million.

The video-game executive told police at the scene that he was not the driver and that a man named Dietrich had been behind the wheel. Eriksson said Dietrich ran away before authorities arrived.

Eriksson also said he was deputy commissioner of the police department of the San Gabriel Valley Transit Authority, a tiny private agency that provides rides to the disabled and elderly.

A few minutes after the crash, two men arrived at the site, identified themselves as Homeland Security officials and spoke to Eriksson at length before leaving.

With its flashy circumstances and bizarre twists, the incident drew heavy interest in Europe as well as the United States. Eriksson has nine criminal convictions in Sweden for forgery, counterfeiting, narcotics and firearms offenses.

On Monday, prosecutors dropped two charges against Eriksson: embezzlement and grand theft related to his possession of the Ferrari involved in the accident.

James Parkman, Eriksson's attorney, said the charges were dropped because officials of the London bank holding the title to the car declined to meet with prosecutors in Los Angeles.

Eriksson faces theft charges for two other vehicles, a black 2003 Ferrari Enzo and a 2005 Mercedes McLaren SLR.

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peter.hong@latimes.com

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