Most of us say "thanks" without thinking.
Jan. 26--Judson Champlin's beloved sterling silver Lamborghini Gallardo was no match for the unforgiving harshness of a Minnesota winter.
So when the Minneapolis intellectual property lawyer entrusted the sports car in the fall of 2011 to Top Gear Autoworks owner David "Superdave" Juntunen for storage, there was a key agreement: The Lamborghini and another vehicle would be picked up and dropped off via trailer, because Champlin had suspended his collision insurance.
Four months later, charges say, the Lamborghini was towed under cover of darkness to a Top Gear garage, heavily damaged after it smashed into three trees and two light poles at a northeast Minneapolis park.
Juntunen's late-night joyride on March 9, 2012, led to a nine-month investigation that yielded two felony counts against Juntunen, 40, and an accomplice and onetime Top Gear employee, Pamela Jean Dupont, 41.
On Friday, both were charged in Hennepin County District Court with insurance fraud and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. Juntunen, who is jailed in lieu of $80,000 bail, is scheduled to make his first court appearance Monday. Dupont remains free.
According to the charges:
The morning after the crash, Juntunen filed an insurance claim with Travelers Insurance, which carries Top Gear's commercial liability policy. The estimate to repair the Lamborghini was nearly $82,500.
Juntunen allegedly told the adjuster that Dupont, who was actually in the passenger seat, was driving the car from Top Gear's Columbia Avenue storage facility to its Lake Street service center when she swerved to avoid striking an animal and went off the road.
In further interviews with Minneapolis Park Police and Travelers, both Juntunen and Dupont stuck to the same story, although the time they claimed for the crash differed from witness statements.
At 1:45 a.m. on March 9, about 15 minutes before the crash, a Fridley police officer on a traffic stop spotted the Lamborghini fly by on University Avenue.
Travelers scheduled under-oath statements from both Juntunen and Dupont, but neither showed up, so Travelers denied the claim.
Charges say that during a meeting last month with Champlin, Juntunen admitted to taking the car without permission and driving it for non-business reasons. When asked why he would not go back to the insurance company and ask them to pay for the damage, Juntunen allegedly said, "If I ask them to pay based on the statements I gave, I'm going to prison. It's insurance fraud."
Champlin also admitted that Dupont wasn't driving.
Because Champlin only had storage insurance on the Lamborghini at the time of the accident, his insurance company denied the claim for damages. The car still hasn't been repaired.
According to the Hennepin County attorney's office, the crash also caused nearly $10,000 in damage to B.F. Nelson Park.
No one's talking
Champlin declined Friday to discuss the charges, citing the active court case. He also declined to say whether he plans to sue Juntunen or Top Gear.
When contacted at the shop, a Top Gear employee said he had not heard of the charges. Dupont could not be reached.
Juntunen's criminal history includes convictions for third-degree criminal sexual conduct, third-degree burglary, motor vehicle theft and drunken driving. Charges say any vehicle he operates is required to be equipped with ignition interlock.
And that's not all. On New Year's Eve 2008, he was arrested after he parachuted from the top of the Foshay Tower in Minneapolis. A video of his jump is still accessible online under the name of his business.
"What makes us different?" the Top Gear website reads. "In a word ... ethics."
Abby Simons --612-673-4921
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