Recently we had the opportunity of acquiring a Mercedes W113 280SL which came with more lore than expected. We found it hidden away in a Southern California garage for a time span of 4 decades. We have compiled a video on the discovery and delivery of this fifty-three-year-old Pagoda to our shop in a video, the link to which is included. This collector-car icon, part of infamous Ponzi schemer, J. David Dominelli’s car collection, with its connection to the rich and famous will not likely be forgotten again.
The Signal Red Mercedes 280SL is verified as a car once owned by the Dominellis, a name that is cemented in San Diego history. Jerry David Dominelli was a preeminent financial guru-turned-pyramid-schemer of modern history. His main source of prominence came from early years of investing in volatile international currency markets, to which he found a great deal of success awarding him quite the reputation in the city. He was well-regarded by many as a shy but brilliant man, associating with many high-ranking government officials and business magnates during his rise to fame.
Eventually, his empire lavish lifestyle came crashing down as the checks began to bounce. An estimated $80 million (roughly $200,000,000 in 2021 currency valuation) vanished into thin air. When the dust settled it is estimated 1,000 to 1,500 victims of Dominelli’s Ponzi Scheme would end up losing large chunks of their net worth. Dominelli eventually pled guilty to mail fraud, bankruptcy fraud, and tax evasion, which would land him in federal prison for the remainder of his days. A larger and more thorough summary of the events is available by following the links provided including a New York Times article from the period.
After the car’s title was transferred to the law firm representing Mrs. Dominelli the car was subsequently purchased by an attorney at the firm. It remained sitting for the next 4 decades after a mysterious burglary on the lawyer’s home led to a missing title and keys (since rectified).