By Joseph Ax and Agnieszka Flak
NEW YORK/MILAN (Reuters) – Lapo Elkann, grandson of late Fiat patriarch Gianni Agnelli, is facing charges in New York for falsely reporting he had been kidnapped, law enforcement sources said on Tuesday.
Elkann apparently concocted the fake kidnapping scheme in an effort to get ransom money after running out of cash during a drug-fueled partying binge, one law enforcement source said.
He was taken into custody on Sunday around 2 a.m. EST, according to the sources.
The 39-year-old claimed he was held against his will in an apartment on East 28th Street in Manhattan from approximately 6 p.m. EST on Friday until 10:30 p.m. EST on Saturday.
Elkann’s publicist declined to comment. The Agnelli family’s investment holding Exor had no comment.
One law enforcement source said Elkann met a 29-year-old man through an escort website after he arrived in New York on Thursday and that the two men did drugs at the East 28th Street apartment before Elkann decided to report the false kidnapping.
Elkann, who along with his older brother, Fiat Chrysler Chairman John Elkann, is an heir to Italy’s biggest industrial dynasty, nearly died of a drug overdose in 2005 after collapsing in the apartment of a transsexual prostitute.
While John is known for his shyness and reserve, Lapo’s flamboyant style has made him a celebrity in Italy, where he is dedicated to family-owned soccer club Juventus and owns a stable of luxury sportscars.
Elkann no longer holds any positions at Fiat after leaving a marketing post years ago, but he is still on the board of directors at luxury carmaker Ferrari, one of the various companies controlled by his family.
In 2007 he founded sunglasses company Italia Independent, which debuted on the Milan stock market in 2013.
Shares in the company, which reported an operating loss of 4.4 million euros for the first six months of the year and recently carried out a capital increase, fell nearly 10 percent on Tuesday but later recovered and closed down 3.5 percent.
Although the Agnellis are best known for their investment in Fiat Chrysler, Exor also owns reinsurer PartnerRe and has significant holdings in trucks and tractor maker CNH Industrial, The Economist, Juventus and Ferrari, among others.
Elkann was released after his arrest and is due in criminal court in New York on Jan. 25.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax in New York and Agnieszka Flak in Milan; Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by Agnieszka Flak and Isla Binnie in Milan; editing by Mark Heinrich and David Gregorio)