Former senior Gizmondo staffer Stefan Eriksson this week pleaded not guilty to charges of embezzlement, grand theft, driving while drunk and the illegal possession of a firearm. Eriksson, 44, made the plea through his attorney during an appearance before the Los Angeles Superior Court yesterday.
Judge Mary Strobel set bail at $5.5m and ordered a bail-review hearing to take place on 24 April, Associated Press reports.
Prosecutors charged Eriksson with three counts of embezzlement and three counts of grand theft, all relating to three performance cars found to be in his possession but which are owned, prosecutors maintain, by British financial institutions. They allege Eriksson leased the three vehicles - one of which was destroyed in a high-speed crash on the Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu, California in February. The terms and conditions of the leases, prosecutors claim, prohibited the cars being taken outside the UK.
The three cars are two Ferrari Enzos and a Mercedes McLaren SLR. It was one of the Enzos - each worth more than $1m - that was ripped in two in the dawn smash on 21 February. At the time, Eriksson said the car had been driven by a German male who then fled the scene. Prosecutors this week alleged Eriksson was the man behind the wheel of the car. Immediately after the smash, Eriksson was found to have a blood alcohol level above that permitted for driving in California.
It is believed tests may have matched Eriksson's DNA with blood samples taken from the ruined Enzo's driver-side front airbag. Certainly, prosecutors said they had initiated the drink-driving charge after receiving the results of the test.
The weapons charge follows the recovery of a .357 pistol at Eriksson's Bel-Air home on Friday, 7 April, prosecutors said. The gun was owned illegally, they claimed, because Eriksson had been convicted of drug, assault, fraud and other charges in Sweden in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Eriksson quit Gizmondo in October 2005 when details of those convictions were made public by the Swedish press.
The handgun charge is a felony count, the drink-driving charge amounts to two misdemeanour counts. If convicted on all nine counts, Eriksson would face up to 14 years in a US jail. ®