A Real Wheeler-Dealer

Judah Feldman was dying a slow and painful death. He was only 56 years old, but he looked 80. His beard was gray and stringy, his sunken eyes vacant. More than a decade earlier, he'd battled cancer, which forced doctors to remove one of his kidneys. Now diabetes caused his other kidney to fail. As Judah lay in a twin bed in his son Seth's Coral Springs home, pain coursed through his withered body. His only relief: self-administered morphine.

Early one afternoon Judah asked his home-care nurse just how much morphine it would take to end his suffering permanently. The nurse confiscated the morphine and handed it over to Seth Feldman. Seth and his father were especially close -- friends and also business partners in Quality Appliances, a company that exported used air conditioner and refrigerator parts overseas. But for the past couple of years, a strengthened worldwide economy had diminished the demand for used appliances, and the company, like Judah, was in bad shape. As his father became increasingly ill, Seth struggled to run the business on his own.

Seth's wife, Beth, worked, too, in the sales department of Keystone Tapes, a wholesale packaging store in Davie. The Feldmans needed two incomes to pay the bills and take care of their eight-year-old daughter, Erin Faith. But because Beth's salary was low and Seth's business was failing, they were barely scraping by.

Beth, however, had a plan that she believed would save the family from debt and enable Seth to return to school and get an engineering degree. In January 1997, she accepted a job at a potentially lucrative yet risky new venture called Eurasia Motor Corporation. Eurasia's business plan was to import a line of inexpensive cars from Romania and sell the franchise rights to automobile dealerships nationwide. At a salary of $1000 a week, Beth would serve as the company's director of corporate finance.

It wasn't just the money that attracted Beth to the job. Her new boss, CEO Howard Patterson, convinced her she was getting in on the ground floor of what would become a multimillion-dollar company. He claimed that wealthy investors were prepared to support Eurasia. He promised her future stock options and profit sharing. And when Judah Feldman died on February 7, 1997 -- a day after he'd suggested he would take his own life -- Patterson became the Feldmans' only hope. Quality Appliances soon dissolved, Seth began taking antidepressants, and Beth went to work at a high-paying job with a promising future.

Twenty-one months later, Eurasia is no longer the savior it once pretended to be. In September the New York Times reported that at least nine car dealerships nationwide, including two in South Florida, have either sued Eurasia or filed formal complaints in efforts to retrieve their franchise fees, which range from $25,000 to $69,000 each. Over the last year and a half, Eurasia has moved from Fort Lauderdale to Corpus Christi, Texas, and back again, changing the make of the car it's supposed to import three times in the process. But the company has yet to deliver a single car.

And it probably never will. Patterson claims that Eurasia signed contracts with five foreign companies to build the cars, but the companies deny having any relationship with Eurasia. Insisting that he has the contracts, Patterson offered, on two separate occasions, to show them to New Times. But when it came time to set up the appointments, Patterson's secretary claimed he was not in Eurasia's Fort Lauderdale office, and he did not return the calls.

One reason for Patterson's reticence may be that the State of Florida no longer recognizes Eurasia as a legal corporation. On October 16 the state revoked Eurasia's corporate-entity status after the company failed to file an annual report. Nonetheless Eurasia is still up and running, although it's hard to know for how long. Last week a Eurasia vice president announced Howard Patterson was "stepping away from his position" as CEO. She refused to go into detail but said the company's investors -- whom she refused to name -- wanted someone else "to work through the current issues and move us on to the next level."

"That's the same thing he says every time," Seth Feldman sneers after hearing the latest news. "Every time the shit gets stinky, Howard pretends he's bringing new people in."

Feldman should know. Nine of Patterson's former employees, including the Feldmans, claim in interviews and court testimony that Eurasia owes them more than $200,000. Even as franchise fees poured in, they say, Patterson bounced paychecks, used employee credit cards without authorization, and dipped into company funds to buy himself jewelry, boats, cars, and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. The Feldmans claim that, between back pay and money they shelled out for business expenses, Eurasia owes them alone $25,000.

"Everyone that has come in contact with Howard Patterson has been hurt -- everybody," says Cecil Cain, another former Eurasia employee. "There's not a person that walked away from it. You've either been hurt financially or emotionally. A couple of marriages have been hurt. Everyone he's come in contact with has been damaged from it."

Just how Patterson did the alleged damage is not easy to assess. He refuses to share basic information about his background, and he will not explain, beyond offering a denial, why so many of his associates claim he owes them money. But a look at Eurasia's practices over the past 21 months reveals that Patterson specialized in making promises he could not keep. And, as Beth Feldman knows, Patterson's charm and constant assurances allowed him to proceed with an operation that, at least on the surface, looks all too familiar.

"It's a clear-cut case of misrepresentation if you're telling people you have some product that you don't really have," says John Warren, an attorney with the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners in Austin, Texas. "You'll see things like that with the elderly, where you have someone selling some piece of land and the land doesn't exist. It happens all the time."

The plaintiffs in a pending federal court suit in Colorado Springs, Colorado, characterize Eurasia's operations as "one of the largest financial frauds in the United States," estimating that, thus far, the company has taken in more than $5 million.

But Patterson doesn't want to talk about it.
For two weeks he didn't return phone calls from New Times, nor would he meet with a reporter at his Fort Lauderdale office. But, one night in mid-October, he was visited at his modest Pompano Beach home, where he agreed to an impromptu interview, which took place, for the most part, in his driveway.

Dressed in an expensive suit and tie and leaning against his $90,000 silver Acura NSX, Patterson looked every bit the successful businessman. He was friendly and unintimidating.

"You know," he said, when asked about the allegations, "it's difficult to explain unless you're wearing these shoes and you're wearing them every day, but the company is legitimate. We've had our financial problems -- we admit to that -- but we intend to deliver."

As calm and candid as Patterson seemed that night, he simply won't answer certain questions. He refused to reveal his age or his origins. Although he's told business associates that he's from New York state and has decades of automotive experience, he's never provided further details. Patterson also told colleagues he was once a Navy Seal, but the Navy has no record of his service. That may be because Patterson, according to former employees at Eurasia, also goes by another name: Michael Howard Weiner. Patterson won't admit to that, but he did acknowledge that he has a brother named Mark Weiner. Weiner couldn't be reached for comment, and Patterson refused to explain the name discrepancy.

"Are you looking to do a background check?" Patterson asked at one point. "I'd rather do it in front of my attorney. But I'll tell you this: We are a legitimate company."

One of the first car dealerships to do business with Eurasia was Best Bid Auto Auction, which sells used cars in Plantation to all buyers, regardless of credit history. In February 1997, just as Patterson was getting Eurasia off the ground, he met with Best Bid's manager, Ofer Kohavi, and executives at Riverbank, the Fort Lauderdale investment group that bankrolls Best Bid's projects.

The following, according to Riverbank executive Ellis Simring, was Patterson's pitch: Contracts have been signed with Daewoo, a Korean electronics and automobile manufacturer that has a plant in Romania, where the company will build a line of sedans called the Rodae and export them, via Eurasia, to the United States. The sticker price for the four-door sedan, with air conditioning and air bags, is $5995 -- in other words, a brand-new car at a used-car price. All Riverbank has to do, on behalf of Best Bid, is put down a $25,000 refundable deposit, which will be held in an escrow account, to reserve Best Bid's slot as Broward County's exclusive Eurasia franchise. This doesn't, however, lock Best Bid into the deal. The Rodae will arrive in April, and Best Bid executives will inspect the car, then decide how to proceed. If Best Bid likes the Rodae, Riverbank simply needs to pay another $25,000. Eurasia will provide advertising and promotional help to make Best Bid -- Broward County's only Rodae dealership -- a financial success.

Impressed by the pitch and the no-obligation setup, Riverbank mailed a check to Eurasia's attorney in mid-February 1997. A few weeks later, Simring received two letters from Eurasia -- one confirming receipt of the check, another congratulating the company on the decision.

But when the Rodae didn't arrive in April, Simring called Daewoo, which has an international office in Seoul, Korea, and the Rodae factory in Romania. He was unable to confirm, independent of Patterson, that a contract had been signed. Simring tested Eurasia by writing a letter to Patterson inviting him and other Eurasia executives to join Riverbank on an all-expenses-paid trip to Romania to check on the Rodae's progress. In a letter dated April 30, 1997, a Eurasia vice president responded by stating: "To be quite frank, we feel that such intrusion into our business is neither required nor justified and your request is hereby denied."

Bill Tucker, Daewoo Motor America's vice president of marketing and customer relations, recently explained why Eurasia was so hesitant to share details about its relationship with his company: No relationship exists. Neither Daewoo nor any of its manufacturers or subsidiaries, he explained, has ever signed a contract with Eurasia for any purpose.

On May 23, a month after the Rodae was supposed to be available for inspection, Simring wrote a letter to Eurasia's attorney requesting the return of Riverbank's money. Because it wasn't returned, Riverbank filed suit against Eurasia and its general counsel, Luis Roses, on September 19, 1997, in Broward County Circuit Court.

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.

A few days before the NADA convention, Patterson called a meeting, during which attorney Gary Rosenberg told Eurasia executives that there would be no car at the show. Furthermore the executives were prohibited from talking to dealers unless he, Howard Patterson, or a man named Bill Prior, another Eurasia consultant, were present, according to an affidavit in the Colorado Springs case.

"Defendant Rosenberg gave each employee an outline summarizing the position Eurasia Motor Corporation would take when faced with questions from dealers at the NADA convention regarding why there was no vehicle, and Rosenberg advised that we would be 'fired on the spot' if we did not follow that outline," the affidavit states. Rosenberg, who no longer works for Eurasia, declined to comment for this article.

But the thrust of the message was simple: Keep your mouth shut.
That was no problem for Cecil Cain, a former Eurasia vice president, who says he was so embarrassed by Eurasia's meager display at NADA that he talked to only three dealers at the convention. Because it didn't have a vehicle, Cain says, Eurasia put a Chevrolet V-8 engine on a pedestal and slapped a black-and-silver Gazelle sticker on it. By the end of the month, more than 15 dealers had requested their money back.

"It was a fiasco," scoffs Cain. "I mean, it was a joke."
Dealers didn't know it yet, but Eurasia was having money problems, too. By the end of 1997, Eurasia owed the Feldmans $25,000, the former employees say. The company had also bounced checks, including one for $3800 sent to Office Furniture Solutions, a Fort Lauderdale-based furniture rental company. That bill was eventually paid, but Eurasia still owes $3800 more, according to company president Gerry Goodin. That's not all Eurasia owes. The lease ended in March, Goodin says, and Eurasia has yet to return the $30,000 worth of furniture.

Eurasia's alleged recklessness with money wasn't unusual. The company was consistently late paying rent for the Fort Lauderdale office before it was finally thrown out in July 1998. Eurasia didn't fare any better in Corpus Christi, where Patterson moved with several employees in October 1997, ostensibly because the port there offered less-expensive fees than other ports. Eurasia set up shop in a newly renovated warehouse at the port -- where Corpus Christi Mayor Loyd Neal cut the ceremonial ribbon -- and leased an entire floor of the fanciest office building in the city. But in March 1998 Eurasia was evicted from that building too, according to property manager Cherylyn Boyd.

While car dealers can justify their business dealings with Patterson by claiming they simply made poor investments, some Eurasia employees, who were aware of what was going on at Eurasia, believe they have only themselves to blame.

"I was an idiot," Beth Feldman admits. "The best way I can explain it to you is this: I was conned. The man is a very smooth-talking man."

Feldman joined Eurasia even before it was officially incorporated through Jules Pier, one of Patterson's former colleagues at a company called East European Imports (EEI), a Miami-based company that plans to import a line of Romanian SUVs into the United States by mid-1999. (The two companies are unrelated, and, unlike Eurasia, EEI does have proof that it signed contracts with foreign manufacturers.)

Both Pier and Patterson worked at EEI until 1996, when they were fired, according to the company's founder and former president, Jack Trotman. Trotman would not say why the men were fired, and he later continued to do business with them. Trotman retired from EEI in March 1996, just a month after Eurasia was founded. He then moved to Corpus Christi and was hired six months later as a Eurasia consultant. Patterson also hired Trotman's sons, J.T. (who declined to comment) and J.R. (who could not be reached for comment), as salesmen. Although all three Trotmans resigned from Eurasia in early 1998, when it appeared the Gazelle would be a permanent no-show, the elder Trotman says he initially believed he could help his former employees.

"Howard Patterson was a great salesman, and I had no problem with him as a salesman," Trotman said recently from his Corpus Christi home. "And Jules is very good at what he does -- at providing the sizzle -- and I think if you can focus these guys, they can do good."

Like most of the folks who got involved with Eurasia, though, Trotman evidently didn't do his homework. In October 1996 Jules Pier was arrested by the Davie police and charged with grand theft for allegedly stealing roughly $70,000 worth of petroleum products from Petro-Chem, a business he co-owned. Pier pleaded no contest to the charge and was sentenced to ten years' probation plus restitution.

The Petro-Chem warehouse was located next to a wholesale package-supply store called Keystone Tapes, where Beth Feldman had been a salesperson for two years. Over time she and Pier had become close friends. And although she knew of his arrest, she considered him something of a mentor and father figure. At the end of 1996, he told her about a new business venture called Eurasia, which would make him a wealthy man. And in January 1997, as Feldman's father-in-law lay dying at home, Pier introduced her to the man he said was going to get him there -- Howard Patterson.

Feldman didn't know anything about Patterson, but she was impressed with his business sense and promises about the future. He didn't know much about her either, except what Pier had told him, but he offered her $1000 a week, plus future stock options, to take care of his new company's finances. There was one caveat, however. Patterson told Feldman he had no credit and needed help to pay for basic business expenses -- just for a few weeks, he assured her, until the investors were lined up.

Feldman says she trusted Pier, and her family needed the money she believed Eurasia would eventually supply. So in February 1997 she signed her own name to a lease for an office in a Fort Lauderdale building and to a 12-month furniture lease. Without telling her husband, who was busy with his ailing father and their business, she also called her credit card companies and requested duplicates of her and her husband's cards.

She says Patterson asked her to do this -- just to get the company off the ground -- and at first he and his employees ran up the credit and paid the bills immediately to get credit increases. Eurasia employees racked up thousands of dollars a month, Feldman says, on so-called "business expenses," and she showed New Times a sampling of the bills: $117 for clothing at a Gap store in Warwick, Rhode Island, $20.44 at Patsy's Package Store in Peasdale, Rhode Island, $255.84 to the Grand Casino Hotel in Gulfport, Mississippi, and $696 to Freddy's Diamonds in Sunrise.

Almost immediately Eurasia missed a payment on the Feldmans' Citibank card. In March 1997 the bank called Seth to inform him that his card was overdrawn by a few hundred dollars. Thinking it was a mistake, he called Beth at work, and she explained what she had done.

Beth is reluctant to talk about why she let Eurasia use the credit cards. She says only that she thought she'd found an opportunity to help her family. Her husband, however, has had plenty of time to think about what she did and how it could have happened.

"I was not in my right frame of mind," Seth Feldman said one afternoon over a cigarette and a half-eaten chef's salad at a Deerfield Beach Cracker Barrel. "I was closing my retail store. I was taking care of my father, who had kidney failure. I was on Prozac. I was having an emotional episode myself. But Beth wanted the best for us. She saw an opportunity. But, you know, she was naive, and she decided to take advantage of this."

That March, however, Seth was less philosophical. After he got off the phone with Beth, he drove to Eurasia's office to confront Patterson. "Howard said, 'Oh, no, no. I just needed a little money,'" Seth Feldman recalls. "'I just needed some help. We're partners. We'll all be millionaires.'" Patterson then offered him a $1000-a-week job in the company's parts department.

Feldman accepted, but, after just three months on the job, his doubts resurfaced. He made a few phone calls and concluded, according to his affidavit in the Colorado Springs case, that Eurasia "was a fraud perpetrated on unsuspecting automobile dealers."

Prosecuting a criminal fraud case isn't easy. First you have to establish criminal intent, which means proving the alleged perpetrator knew, or should have known, that he was selling something he either couldn't get or didn't have. Then you have to track down the alleged con artist's assets, says Bob Emerson, an attorney and a business professor at the University of Florida. "A lot of it is trying to follow the trail," Emerson explains. "Who did what, who was really in charge, where are they now, and what kind of assets do they have, if any?"

In July 1997 Seth Feldman thought he knew the answers to these questions. He confronted Patterson and was fired immediately, according to his affidavit. Eurasia owed the family $25,000, according to the Feldmans, and Beth continued to work for Patterson, hoping he'd somehow import a car into the United States. She'd brought her family in so deep, she says, that she had no choice but to continue and eventually recoup some of her losses.

But by December 1997 Beth Feldman had yet to see any money and was tired of listening to Patterson's promises. She confronted him about his business practices, and, according to her affidavit, she too was fired. "I jumped at what I thought was a good opportunity," she now concludes, "and, like so many other people, I got scammed."

Aside from the Feldmans and Luis Roses, whose combined claims total $125,000 in lost wages and unreimbursed expenses, six other employees claim Eurasia owes them as well. In a signed affidavit for the Colorado Springs case, for instance, Eurasia's former senior vice president, Cecil Cain, says Eurasia owes him more than $17,000. Even Jules Pier says Eurasia owes him money. He and Patterson were once colleagues, but Patterson fired him purportedly because he learned that Pier was a convicted felon.

"At this point I have really nothing to say to him," Pier grumbled one evening. "This man has put us under just like he's put 30 or 40 other people under. Don't get me started on Howard Patterson. I'll get all wound up."

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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Michael Freedman