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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Wisconsin

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, May 30, 2019

American Living in Switzerland Charged With Wire Fraud and Causing Rare Antique Automobile to be Transported in Foreign Commerce

Matthew D. Krueger, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, announced that yesterday a federal grand jury returned a five-count Indictment against Christopher C. Gardner (age: 63), an American citizen living in Mont-Sur-Rolle, Switzerland, charging Gardner with wire fraud and causing a stolen motor vehicle to be transported in foreign commerce.      

According to the indictment, on March 4, 2001, Christopher Gardner burglarized a garage in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and stole a 1938 Talbot Lago T150C-SS Teardrop Coupe—one of only approximately 16 such automobiles ever made.  Gardner is alleged to have stored the auto until July 2005.

The indictment alleges that in October 2005, Gardner forged documents indicating that the auto had been recovered and that Gardner was in lawful possession of it.

The indictment further alleges that Gardner exported the stolen auto to Switzerland in 2006; had it restored in France between 2007 and 2015; and offered it for sale to a potential buyer in Illinois in 2015.

According to the indictment, in August 2015, the Illinois buyer—in reliance on Gardner’s allegedly false statements and forged documents—purchased the auto through an LLC for a total of $7.6 million, including $6.8 million to be paid directly to Gardner.  Gardner is alleged to have caused the auto to be transported in foreign commerce from Switzerland to Chicago, Illinois, in December 2015.  

The maximum term of imprisonment for the each of the wire fraud charges is 20 years. The charge of transportation of a motor vehicle in foreign commerce carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years.  Each charge also carries a maximum fine of $250,000 and calls for forfeiture of the proceeds of the crime. 

The following agencies participated in the investigation: the Milwaukee Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Milwaukee Police Department, Homeland Security Investigations, and the French National Police.

“We commend the FBI and each of the law enforcement agencies whose teamwork and persistence allowed these important charges to be brought,” said U.S. Attorney Krueger.  “Only through solid partnerships can crimes that span borders be effectively prosecuted.”

Special Agent in Charge Robert E. Hughes, of the FBI Milwaukee Field Office, extended his thanks to the law enforcement partners involved in this investigation, and stated: “This indictment demonstrates the importance of both domestic and international law enforcement cooperation. The FBI continually builds, maintains, and capitalizes on such partnerships, so that whether an investigation leads us across the city, or across the ocean, we have the resources necessary for success.”

This criminal case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Scott J. Campbell.

An indictment is only a charge and not evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

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Updated May 31, 2019