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.

Three weeks ago Patterson claimed he intended to repay money he legitimately owes. He denied, however, that he used company money for personal purchases. And to prove it, he reluctantly gave a tour of the house he rents in Pompano Beach on the evening New Times dropped by. The interior is modestly furnished, with a small stocked bar to the right of the door and a wooden box of cigars on a nearby table.

"They're Dominican," he teased. "I can't afford the Cubans."
The house overlooks a broad canal that leads to the Intracoastal, and Patterson keeps several scuba tanks on his back porch. He also owns a 26-foot, $40,000 Gulfstream fishing boat called the Tag & Brag, which refers to baiting a fish, catching it, and then bragging about it afterward.

Patterson said that he planned to continue his operation and insisted he'd signed a contract with a French company called Auverland to build the Gazelle line. As proof, he said, he had a video at the office of an August car show in Portland, Maine, where dealers gushed over Eurasia's sport-utility vehicle on display. It will be ready for sale by the end of 1998, he said, and he would be happy to show it to New Times the following morning.

But when it came time to set up an appointment, the company's vice president of operations, Michelle Turner, called to say Patterson had changed his mind. Although Patterson had been warm and friendly the night before, Turner claimed he was irritated that a reporter would show up at his home uninvited. He no longer wanted to show the documents or the film, and he was considering litigation against New Times for reasons Turner could not disclose.

The appointment, it turns out, wasn't necessary. Jean-Bernard Lasnaud, Auverland's American representative, told New Times that Eurasia has not signed a contract with his company. "I don't want to know these people," he added, referring to Eurasia. "We don't have any intention of bringing this vehicle into the United States."

Also, on October 16, the State of Florida revoked Eurasia's corporate-entity status for failing to file an annual report as required by law. Eurasia may still operate, but its officers are now held individually accountable for the company's actions. But Patterson evidently doesn't have to worry. According to papers filed with the state, he's not listed as an officer with Eurasia. But his wife, Michalann Konko Patterson, is.

But the most significant news arrived last week, when Turner called New Times to announce that Patterson was "stepping away from his position and responsibilities" at Eurasia. She refused to divulge any more information, so, for the second time, a reporter stopped by Patterson's house to see if he'd answer questions.

"We're putting some investors together," Patterson said last Wednesday evening, after zipping into his quiet residential neighborhood in his sleek sports car. "Maybe we can have some information for you by Friday."

Thursday afternoon Turner called to say that Patterson had changed his mind again. Instead of agreeing to an interview, she said, he was contemplating filing a restraining order against the reporter. A national press release regarding Eurasia will be sent out next week, she added, before hanging up.

No matter what Patterson's current employees say, the Feldmans believe he continues to pull the strings at Eurasia. Every time he gets into hot water, he changes the details, according to Seth Feldman. Patterson rearranges the corporate structure. He changes his name. He changes the names of the companies with which he's doing business. He changes the name of the car Eurasia plans to import. He changes the location of company headquarters. The only thing that stays the same, Feldman says, is Patterson's claim that he's "putting investors together." He's been saying that since Eurasia first made use of a Feldman credit card.

Regardless of what Patterson does next, the fact remains that plenty of people, dealers and former employees alike, claim that Eurasia and Patterson still owe them money.

And some, like Feldman, are no longer in the mood to be diplomatic. In September, about a year and a half after his father, Judah, died, Feldman heard that Patterson himself was in Broward General Hospital, supposedly as the result of a heart attack. While a hospital spokesperson confirmed that Patterson was treated at Broward General, she would not provide further details. Heart attack or not, Feldman didn't care. He called the hospital and asked for Patterson's room.

"This is Seth," he remembers saying to Patterson. "I hope it's very painful. I hope you suffer a great deal. And I hope you drop dead.

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