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Ferrari Swede in LA court

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09:39 CEST+02:00
A Swedish former videogame executive appeared before a Los Angeles court on Monday charged with stealing a rare, one million dollar Ferrari that he later wrecked in a high-speed car crash.

Stefan Eriksson, 44, stole two Ferrari Enzos as well as a top-end Mercedes-Benz from a British car-leasing company before shipping them to the United States, prosecutors said in an opening statement.

Eriksson, who is charged with grand theft auto and embezzlement, was caught after he wrote off one of the Enzos in a 160 miles per hour (257 kilometers per hour) crash near the exclusive celebrity enclave of Malibu in February.

The car – one of only 400 made and the most expensive Ferrari on the market – was severed in two after slamming into a power pole. Miraculously, Eriksson walked away unscathed.

Eriksson was found to be over the blood-alcohol limit and pleaded no contest last week to charges of driving under the influence. He also faces a hearing on gun charges after a fire-arm was found at his home during a raid in April.

"Mr. Eriksson was living it up and sporting those vehicles right here in the US," said prosecutor Tamara Hall, saying the lease agreement for the Mercedes and black Ferrari did not allow Eriksson to take the vehicles out of Britain.

The cars were reported stolen after Eriksson stopped making payments to the company he had leased them from. Eriksson's lawyers contend their client had merely fallen behind on payments and had not stolen the vehicles.

Eriksson has previous convictions for forgery and fraud in Sweden. Known as 'Tjock Steffe' or 'Fat Steffe', he was a leader of the 'Uppsala Mafia', which put fear into indebted businessmen across Sweden. Threatening them with guns and destroying homes, Eriksson soon gained a reputation as a ruthless criminal. Meanwhile, he was able to live a life of luxury on the proceeds, attending meetings in smart hotels in Stockholm and indulging his passion for high living.

He started his criminal career at age 19 with a series of break-ins, which he carried out with an older relative. An investigation in 1981 described him as 'sensitive' or even 'wet'. He was sentenced to 3 months in prison.

Eriksson left Sweden for London in 2001, where he joined a gang of emigrant Swedes. Despite his criminal past he became one of the founders of Gizmondo, a UK-based company that made video gaming consoles. The company was declared bankrupt in January 2006 after running up debts of up to $200 million in the second half of 2005

Eriksson resigned from Gizmondo in October 2005.

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