The stylish grandson of the Italian founder of Fiat Automobiles falsely claimed he was held against his will by an escort with whom he had spent two days consuming drugs and alcohol in New York, a law enforcement official told the AP on Tuesday. Lapo Elkann, 39, was arrested Saturday night outside a Manhattan public housing complex after his family contacted police, telling them Elkann had demanded $10,000 from them "to guarantee his safety," the official said. Investigators determined Elkann concocted the whole story and made up the false imprisonment tale after he ran out of money following his two-day encounter with the escort, said the official, who wasn't authorized to discuss an ongoing case and spoke on the condition of anonymity. Elkann was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of falsely reporting an incident. He was given a ticket and is due back in court Jan. 25.
Elkann made headlines in Italy in 2005 after he was hospitalized for a drug overdose in the Italian city of Turin. He told an Italian TV interviewer two years later that his past cocaine use had been a "mistake." Elkann's design company, Italia Independent, dropped to historic lows on reports of his arrest, hitting 2.70 euros per share in Milan trading Tuesday. Elkann, who was born in New York City, is the grandson of Gianni Agnelli, who for decades ran Turin-based Fiat Automobiles SpA and its affiliated companies. He is part of the shareholding family but has no role in the company. In recent years he has focused on design, with his Italia Independent company most famous for carbon fiber sunglasses. He also has designed furniture and collaborated on a Gucci design for the new Fiat 500.