October 19

This Day in History

Crime

Oct 19, 1982:

John DeLorean is arrested for drug dealing

Maverick automobile executive John DeLorean is arrested in a Los Angeles, California, airport motel with a briefcase containing $24 million dollars worth of cocaine. According to authorities, DeLorean was attempting to make a mammoth drug deal in order to rescue his financially ailing company, the DeLorean Motor Company.

As a young man, John DeLorean worked in the engineering department of Pontiac, where he developed the classic muscle car of the 1960s, the GTO. He moved on to become the youngest-ever general manager of Chevrolet and was soon hobnobbing with Hollywood stars. He dumped his first wife to marry Kelly Harmon, a 20-year-old model, only to divorce again and marry jet-setter Cristina Ferrare. When DeLorean took to wearing bell-bottoms and had plastic surgery on his face, his new style did not find favor with the bigwigs at General Motors, and he was forced out in 1973. He later blasted GM in a bestselling book, On a Clear Day You Can See General Motors.

DeLorean set out to build his own company and a dream sports car. With Great Britain offering amazing incentives, and with money from celebrities such as Johnny Carson and Sammy Davis Jr., he created the DeLorean Motor Company and built a striking stainless steel sports car with gull-wing doors. Although quite popular at first, the cars had some problems, and, when a recession hit in 1981, the company was left reeling.

According to DeLorean's account, it was at this time that James Hoffman, an acquaintance in California who was actually a convicted felon-turned-government informant, told him he could find investors to save the company. Claiming that he didn't know it was a drug deal until it was too late, DeLorean said he was afraid to back out. Despite what many believed to be an open and shut case, which even included a videotape of the drug deal, the jury believed that DeLorean had been entrapped by the government. In 1984, even without his own testimony, he was acquitted.

However, DeLorean's legal troubles didn't end there. In 1985, he was indicted for racketeering, fraud, and tax evasion, all of which he escaped with an acquittal. He died from a stroke at the age of 80, on March 19, 2005.

With less than 10,000 ever produced, the DeLorean sports car is now a collector's car; a large percentage of them are still in operation and on the roads.

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