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Firm Tied to Ferrari Crash Closes

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Times Staff Writer

The San Gabriel Valley Transit Authority -- the tiny bus firm with its own police force that became part of the criminal probe into the crash of a rare Ferrari in Malibu -- appears to have made its last stop.

But not before a final strange ride.

The founder of the agency was arrested in June by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies after going to two separate San Gabriel Valley sheriff’s stations and allegedly “pretending to be a police officer,” in hopes of recovering vehicles impounded as part of the probe, authorities said.

Sheriff’s officials now say the agency is no longer operating, but it remains at the center of a criminal investigation that began in February after Swedish businessman Bo Stefan Eriksson allegedly crashed a rare Ferrari Enzo on Pacific Coast Highway.

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When deputies arrived at the scene, Eriksson told them he was a deputy commissioner of the transit agency’s police “anti-terrorism unit.” A few minutes later, two men arrived at the scene, identified themselves to deputies as “homeland security” officials and demanded to speak with Eriksson.

Eriksson, a former European video game executive, was charged with embezzlement, grand theft auto, possession of a firearm and being under the influence of alcohol when he allegedly crashed the Ferrari. A former business associate was arrested for allegedly using a badge issued by the transit agency to illegally purchase a handgun. Both pleaded not guilty.

According to court documents obtained by The Times, sheriff’s investigators are looking into how the transit agency managed to create its own police force.

The agency received a “.gov” Internet address, as well as a government identification number issued to law enforcement agencies. Detectives are trying to determine whether the identifications were fraudulently obtained, court records show.

Steve Whitmore, a spokesman for Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, said investigators want to know why a tiny bus company that provided rides to the disabled and elderly in two San Gabriel Valley suburbs needed its own police department. They also are looking into how Eriksson and his associates became involved.

In May, Yosuf Maiwandi, the founder of the authority, was arrested when sheriff’s investigators raided several businesses and homes and confiscated two San Gabriel Valley Transit Authority police cars.

He was arrested on suspicion of perjury for reporting on state applications that the agency was a government entity so that it could receive state government license plates.

In June, Maiwandi tried to get the agency’s vehicles back.

In an interview, Maiwandi insisted he did nothing wrong. He said he was told by deputies to bring identification to the sheriff’s stations so he could get the police cars returned. He went to the two stations, he said, and showed his transit agency commissioner’s card.

Deputies asked, “Are you a police officer?” Maiwandi said. He said he replied “yes” because he qualified at reserve officer level through courses at the Rio Hondo College’s police academy.

In the recent case, Whitmore said Maiwandi was arrested on suspicion of impersonating a police officer. Maiwandi first tried to get a vehicle released from the Temple City station and when he did not succeed he went to the Industry station, Whitmore said.

Authorities said the probe of the transit authority is almost complete and should go to the district attorney’s office soon.

In a search warrant affidavit, detectives state that only a government agency can form a transit entity and have its own police department, and that the San Gabriel Valley Transit Authority was not formed by a government body.

Maiwandi, 39, said state law allows transit companies to create police departments as a way of protecting passengers.

Indeed, state public utility regulations allow transit agencies to create police departments -- even if they are not certified by the state’s central training body for peace officers.

But authorities are trying to determine whether those involved with the transit agency misrepresented its purpose in seeking government approval for its law enforcement operations.

The entire case made international headlines because the Ferrari that Eriksson allegedly wrecked was one of the world’s rarest and most expensive cars.

A judge recently ordered that the rest of the Bel-Air man’s exotic car collection -- two Enzos and a Mercedes -- be sent back to British banks that have claimed ownership of them.

Eriksson is awaiting trial.

As for the San Gabriel Valley Transit Authority, Whitmore said it has “ceased to function.”

But Maiwandi vowed to reopen his bus service.

“We’ll get some donations and be up and running again in a week or two,” he said.


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