Terry Anderson is the scion of Australian aristocrats. He once served as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves, with top-secret clearance. His first wife died in his arms after he mistakenly shot her on a kangaroo-hunting expedition. And he is a 17-time U.S. national champion in rapid-fire pistol shooting.
So after a drive in Anderson's 2006 Bentley over the Lehman Causeway, it's a little frightening to ask the Aventura man about the two and a half years he spent in federal prison — particularly because the inquiry is related to the $75,000 cache of unregistered weapons, including machine guns and silencers, that federal agents found at his Texas home in 2003.
"Be very, very careful," he says. "It was a very simple matter of someone trying to grab a lot of money. It was done by a woman trying to get her way."
The 68-year-old Anderson is a real-life character out of a spy thriller who splits his time between Miami and Dallas. These days, his life revolves around Bentleys and Rolls-Royces. He's the South Florida version of the Most Interesting Man in the World.
Anderson's grandfather, Edward "Red Ted" Theodore, the son of a Romanian immigrant, was a union organizer who rose to political prominence in Australia and became premier of the State of Queensland in the 1920s, according to a 2004 story in New Times' sister paper the Dallas Observer.
Terry's mom, Monica, was an aristocrat who had a debut in the Court of St. James. His father died young, and Terry studied economics at Sydney University before dropping out and starting a construction business.
His passion for cars began around age 18, when he bought a hand-built Bristol automobile that could run 120 miles per hour. His parents, he says, "weren't very supportive of me in those days, so I actually went out and worked on nightshift."
The future Olympian was also interested in guns. He started pistol training at age 19 with his brother Tony, who was a member of the Australian Olympic team. A year later, he felt confident of his skills. "I wrote down the score [after a shooting practice] and suddenly realized I had just shot a score that would've been the Olympic record. And then I thought, Gee, maybe I can do this seriously," he recalled during an interview while sitting comfortably on a piano-lounge sofa in the condominium building in Aventura where he says he lives.
Guns also played a role in his life a couple of years later. His first wife, Babette, died in Australia in early 1967 after a rifle he was loading went off while both were hunting kangaroos. The bullet struck her in the head. The death was ruled accidental.
Anderson eventually overcame his grief and got more involved in pistol shooting. He won the Asian Games, and by the time he came to the United States in 1973 on a business visa, he had earned three Australian national championships. He put aside his grandfather's union heritage and expanded his Australian housing construction business in two right-to-work states: Louisiana and Mississippi. "Very quickly I found out that I was making more money [in the U.S.] than I was making in Australia," he says, "because of the Australian taxation problems, which in those days were pretty severe, and also the unions, which I didn't have to fight here."
The following year, he joined the U.S. National Guard as a reserve officer to get a green card and started coaching the U.S. national team for rapid pistol shooting. He married his second wife, a Dutch swimsuit model, around that time, but they soon divorced. The construction entrepreneur briefly coached the Brazilian shooting team and then, in 1976, wed again, to Marylynn, in New Orleans.
During the next three decades, he won 17 U.S. national pistol titles. In 1980, he was a part of the U.S. Olympics team in the 25-meter rapid-fire pistol category. But his hopes were dashed when President Jimmy Carter boycotted the Moscow Olympics as a protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
His handlers in the U.S. Army Reserve apparently thought highly of him. "I was the Pentagon liaison to Congress. I think the basic criteria for getting picked for the job was that being a reservist, I could easily be fired," he says with a smirk.
Court documents show that in the 1980s, he was on the board of directors of the Iterrand Corp., where he was given five prototype silencers to demonstrate to the Department of Defense. During those years, he was also named president of Combat Core Certification Professionals Inc., a company with four classified contracts with the U.S. government and the Department of Defense.
His third marriage fell apart in 2003. While he was traveling overseas, Marylynn turned him in to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and explosives in Dallas in exchange for immunity, according to court documents. She allowed federal agents to search and seize an unregistered cache of weapons including an Uzi machine gun, a Thompson gun from the Al Capone era, two Sten guns, and five silencers. The next day, on February 19, 2003, Marylynn sued for divorce. She later moved to take over Data Recovery Services, the company they jointly owned.
In May 2004, Anderson pleaded guilty to having unregistered firearms and began serving time at the minimum-security federal prison in Seagoville, Texas. Two other charges were dropped, but federal Judge William Sanderson imposed a $20,000 fine on top of the 36-month sentence.
Chris Burke, a Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesman, said Anderson left jail with 141 days off for good behavior in June 2006. He was then briefly married for a fourth time from May 2007 till January 2008. By December 2008, he had concluded his legal obligations after successfully petitioning the court for an early termination of his three-year conditional release.
Anderson doesn't much like to talk about that time in his life. "You're [reporting about] this to sell newspapers," he told New Times when the issue of his jail time was brought up. "I do not have a criminal record." Then he changed course. "It was for not paying taxes on unregistered weapons." In fact, he had been charged with possession of unregistered firearms, possession of firearms bearing no serial number, and unlawful possession of machine guns, but he eventually pleaded guilty only to the unregistered charge.
These days, Anderson apparently has a new life shuttling back and forth between Texas and Aventura, where he says he lives in a condo at Mystic Point. In Dallas, he runs a high-tech investment company called Data Discovery Inc., and a grandchild is on the way.
His business card says he is chairman emeritus of the Texas Israel Chamber of Commerce. Megan Smith, a spokeswoman for the chamber, said he was the founding chairman when the organization was created in 2007. "He is currently a member of the board and of the executive committee," she adds.
His passion for cars remains. He's very active with the Rolls-Royce Owners Club (RROC) and has two Bentley automobiles. His 1995 Pininfarina Bentley Azure is one of only 12 convertibles that were partly manufactured in Italy. Originally priced at more than $300,000, it can travel 155 miles an hour. A year ago, he also bought a 2006 Bentley Arnage four-door sedan with a backseat refrigerator. "The car is equipped with a bar," he says. "Special crystal sets were supplied. And the car has the adjustable rear seats."
On a second interview a few weeks later, Anderson took a New Times reporter for a test drive down Lehman Causeway in Aventura. The hand-built twin-turbo V8 engine on the 2006 Bentley Arnage — sticker price new: more than $300,000 — hardly strained as he dodged through the midafternoon traffic.
Anderson was listed as the contact person when local owners of Rolls-Royces met for breakfast in mid-March at the Miami Shores Country Club. "This is not a car club," he said when initially contacted by New Times. "This is a people club that happens to have cars."
The treasurer of the RROC Florida Region, Ruben Verdes, was reluctant to talk about Anderson. When asked if he was aware of Anderson's prison stint, Verdes abruptly ended the conversation. "Now you are making it clear why it is not a good idea to talk to you. Have a good day," he said.
An even more bizarre conversation occurred when a reporter inquired about his fifth wife, Rivka Arad. "I'm married to a beautiful lady," he said. "She enjoys the cars."
A further examination revealed she is a rabbi at the Shalom Community Center, which is housed within the Dezer Collection, a North Miami classic car museum. When a reporter called to inquire at the museum, a worker confirmed, "Yes, [Anderson] is her husband."
However, a few minutes later, Arad called and said, "He was my husband, but the divorce is not through yet. We are separated. I don't really want to talk about it. We don't live in the same place anymore. He has absolutely no connection to the museum."