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Trial Awaits Swedish National in Malibu Ferrari Crash Case

Times Staff Writer

A judge Monday ordered a former video game executive to stand trial on nine criminal counts stemming from an investigation that began with the crash of a rare Ferrari Enzo on Pacific Coast Highway in February.

If convicted on the seven felony counts of embezzlement, grand theft auto and possession of a firearm and two misdemeanor counts of driving under the influence, Swedish national Bo Stefan Eriksson, 44, could face up to 14 years in prison.

Testimony before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charles F. Palmer during the two-and-half day preliminary hearing indicated that Eriksson was behind the wheel when the Ferrari smashed into a power pole about 6 a.m. on Feb. 21 in Malibu. Authorities believe the car was going 162 mph. Eriksson originally told sheriff’s deputies that he was passenger in the car and that the driver, a man he knew only as Deitrich, had run away into the hills.

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Det. Zack Conner testified Monday that during an April 7 nighttime raid on Eriksson’s home in Bel-Air, he told the detective that he was driving the Ferrari at the time of the crash, was knocked unconscious, got sick and then threw up.

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The testimony affirmed prosecutors’ charge last week that Deitrich never existed and that Eriksson, who had a blood-level alcohol level exceeding the legal limit, had crashed the car.

Conner also testified about how Eriksson had come into possession of an Orange County reserve sheriff deputy’s handgun, a .357 magnum Smith & Wesson that was confiscated during the April 7 search.

Conner said the gun’s registered owner, Roger A. Davis, a Newport Beach businessman and deputy with the Orange County sheriff’s professional services division, had called him about the weapon on April 9. Davis told the detective that after he and Eriksson, who shared the same office building, had gone shooting, the two picked up the wrong bags, Conner testified. Eriksson had told Conner, however, that he sometimes carried the gun for protection.

Because Eriksson is a convicted felon -- court records show he served five years in a Swedish prison for assault, counterfeiting and narcotics offenses -- he is not allowed to possess a firearm.

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Prosecutors also alleged that Eriksson intentionally tried to defraud three British banks by importing three luxury vehicles -- the red Enzo, a black Enzo and a Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren -- into the U.S. without the banks’ knowledge.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Tamara Hall claimed Eriksson tried to conceal the importation of the cars by using different Swedish passport numbers on customs forms and the bank lease purchase agreements.

Eriksson’s attorney, Paul Takakjian, said that his client’s misrepresentations to customs officials didn’t support the felony embezzlement charges because Eriksson never tried to deprive the banks of ownership by taking title to the cars.

Instead, Takakjian said, Eriksson simply tried to circumvent the one-car-per-person import rule.

Customs officials testified that they grew suspicious when they reviewed Eriksson’s applications to import the vehicles for sale to three young employees of his former company, Gizmondo Europe Ltd. The addresses listed for the purported buyers, customs officials said, matched that of Eriksson’s home in Bel-Air.

Representatives from three British banks -- each owning one car -- told Conner that Eriksson had failed to continue payments on the vehicles. Prosecutors said Eriksson owes more than $2 million to the banks.

At the request of Eriksson’s attorneys, Palmer reduced bail from $5.5 million to $3 million on the conditions that Eriksson surrender all his passports and wear an electronic monitoring device.

Eriksson is due back in court May 15.

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