LOS ANGELES -- John DeLorean, who gave up a shot at the presidency of General Motors to build his own futuristic sports car, was in jail today, charged with trying to finance a $24 million cocaine deal to save his auto company in Northern Ireland from collapse.
The 57-year-old gray-haired entrepreneur was arrested Tuesday at a hotel near Los Angeles International Airport, only hours after the Northern Ireland government announced in Belfast that it would shut down DeLorean's financially troubled auto plant in 10 days.
DeLorean faced arraignment at 2 p.m. pdt before U.S. Magistrate Volney Brown on charges of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and possession with intent to distribute.
DeLorean was seeking 'an investment with a quick return' to salvage his company, said Ted Hunter, head of the Los Angeles office of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.
Hunter said DeLorean was to serve as the 'financier' for the purchase and re-sale in Southern California of 220 pounds of cocaine with an estimated street value of $24 million.
The former vice president of General Motors Corp., DeLeorean was regarded as a future president of the giant corporation until he quit in 1973 to build the $25,000 DeLorean sportscar, the stainless steel car hailed as a revolutionary vehicle.
The Northern Irish government helped set up the DeLorean plant to boost its flagging economy, providing $126 million in aid, but placed it in receivership in February. Since May, production has all but ceased.
There was no indication that the auto builder, who is married to top New York model Christina Ferrare, had been involved in any other drug transaction, Hunter said.
Miss Ferrare flew to Los Angeles early today and told reporters she had no knowledge of the case.
'I just found out a few hours ago,' she said. 'I know nothing. I caught a plane. I'm here to be with my husband. There's nothing I can say to you because I know nothing.'
Also arrested were William Morgan Hetrick, 50, of Mojave, Calif., and Stephen Lee Arrington, 34, of San Diego.
Arrington, arrested Monday night near suburban Van Nuys Airport, had with him 60 pounds of cocaine with an estimated value of $6.5 million that was to be part of the deal, said Richard Bretzing, the agent in charge of the Los Angeles FBI office. Hetrick also was arrested Monday night.
Federal agents would not reveal some details of the alleged narcotics deal, or of DeLorean's arrest. DeLorean was carrying no cocaine when he arrived by plane from New York, Hunter said, but 'there were drugs in his possession when he was arrested' in a hotel shortly afterward.
Hunter said the drugs were part of the 60 pounds confiscated Monday night but he declined to say how they reached DeLorean.
'That's part of the undercover investigation,' he said.
Hetrick and Arrington were arraigned before U.S. Magistrate James J. Penne late Tuesday on charges of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and possession with intent to distribute, which carry a maximum prison term of 15 years.
Bail was set at $20 million for Hetrick and $500,000 for Arrington.
Assistant U.S. Attorney James Walsh, who is in charge of the controlled substances unit, said Hetrick was a 'very established and competent narcotics transporter' and 'the most significant flight risk I have ever dealt with in my time in the office.'
The officials said the cocaine originated in Colombia and came into the United States in the southeast part of the country but they declined to give details of its transportation.
They said Hetrick supplied the cocaine and Arrington delivered it.
The arrests climaxed a five-month investigation by the FBI, DEA, Customs Service, the Ventura, Calif., police department and other agencies, federal agents said.
DeLorean was identified as a participant early in the investigation and had been 'under close surveillance' for some time, they said.