A Real Wheeler-Dealer

He outfoxed car dealers and got his employees to pay him. Meet Howard Patterson, the man who sells cars that don't exist.

Roses was a criminal defense attorney who'd met Patterson through Jules Pier, Eurasia's executive vice president, whom Roses had represented in a 1996 felony case. Roses declined to comment for this article but testified he was hired full-time for $10,000 a month plus benefits, beginning in July 1997.

At a hearing on January 27, 1998, Roses told the court that, because of a clerical error, he'd taken Riverbank's $25,000 out of escrow and put it in Eurasia's general bank account. It was a simple mistake, albeit a big no-no for attorneys, admitted Roses, who no longer worked for Eurasia at the time of the hearing. He told the court that Eurasia should simply return the money. But despite Roses' claims that he sent them subpoenas to appear in court, neither Patterson nor his new attorney, Gary Rosenberg, showed up for the hearing that day.

Roses pleaded with the court at the hearing: "I resigned my position, and I will be asking this Court for permission to file a cross-complaint against my former employer. I don't understand. I don't know why they are not responding to my requests."

Five months after Roses' hearing, Beth Feldman was interviewed for an affidavit for the Colorado Springs case in which Heuberger Motors is suing Eurasia for fraud and breach of contract. During the interview she explained what she believes happened to all the car dealers' deposits. The money, she said, was used by Patterson to finance company expenses and pay for "personal clothing, personal travel expenses, and other non-corporate-related items."

Riverbank and Eurasia eventually settled the suit out of court. Eurasia did not admit to wrongdoing but agreed to make arrangements to help Riverbank get $25,000 from a fund managed by the Florida Bar for these sorts of circumstances. While Patterson and Eurasia got off scot-free, Roses could be disbarred for allegedly misusing funds held in an escrow account. To make matters worse, Roses claims in deposition that Eurasia still owes him $100,000 in salary.

Riverbank wasn't the only company that felt left in the lurch by Eurasia. By the end of April 1997, Eurasia admitted to the handful of car dealers who'd signed on as potential Rodae franchises that the deal had fallen through. Eurasia claimed it was having problems meeting federal safety and environmental standards and that poor diplomatic relations between Romania and the United States had stalled the company's relationship with the manufacturer.

But Patterson offered a new vehicle, and a few of his Rodae customers expressed interest. He claimed he had "contracts in place," with English engineering firms and South African manufacturers, to produce and import a new line of sport-utility vehicle, the Gazelle 4X4.

Eurasia's promotional video features photographs of the boxy-looking Gazelle driving over rocks and tearing through the English countryside. The company's "Business Summary," given to potential Gazelle dealers as part of a thick information packet, advertises the Gazelle's "proven track record in Australia where the toughest elements on earth exist today," and its "Hot dipped galvanized frame, Fiber glass fenders... and 4 wheel disc brakes."

For dealers, however, the most intriguing aspect of the SUV was the sticker price. At a cost of only $12,000, the Gazelle was several thousand dollars cheaper than any SUV on the American market. Armed with this information, Eurasia salespeople invaded car dealerships across the country and pushed the Gazelle franchises as hard as they could.

"They come in on a high-pressure sales tactic," explains Gunnar Heuberger, the Colorado Springs dealer who's suing Eurasia in federal court. "They just fly in, unannounced. They walk into the dealership and say, 'I'm here for two days, and I'm here to sell the rights to this new product, and I've got an appointment this afternoon with the guy next door and the guy down the street.' And they name the guys. And you know these guys, so you can't call them up and say, 'Hey, have you guys heard about this Gazelle?' It's competition. You've gotta play poker with your other dealers. But then they say, 'I need a decision. And I need a decision today.'"

With no time to question the details, and Eurasia's assurance that the startup fee was merely a deposit, approximately 50 dealerships nationwide each plunked down a $30,000 deposit.

Their reward: a promise from Patterson that they would be able to see the Gazelle at the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) convention in New Orleans in February 1998 -- almost a year after the Rodae failed to materialize.

But by January it became clear to employees and dealers alike that Eurasia was having car trouble. On January 30, Foers, Cosworth, and Birkin S.A. -- the three companies purportedly building the car for Eurasia -- issued a joint press release stating they had "no connection whatsoever with Eurasia." Recently John Foers confirmed for New Times that his company had never signed a contract with Eurasia, despite Eurasia's insistence to the contrary. "[Eurasia's claim] upsets me a bit," he said from his office in South Yorkshire, England. "It doesn't affect me drastically, but it is annoying that someone is using my name to promote their car."

A few days after the press release was issued, Patterson sent his brother Mark Weiner to Arlington, Texas, to meet with Timothy Barton, the owner of a company called Jurassic Truck. Jurassic Truck produces kit cars, do-it-yourself SUVs for the handy auto enthusiast. Barton says that Weiner, a paid Eurasia consultant, asked him to build a mockup of a four-by-four that Eurasia could show at NADA and call a Gazelle. Eurasia needed it in six weeks. "I told them that to build a vehicle in that time -- even a sloppy one -- was impossible," Barton recalls.

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