Investigators in the bizarre buried Mercedes-Benz case in Atherton have concluded the whole thing was a case of insurance fraud, and lo and behold, the car’s late owner Johnny Bocktune Lew collected a cool $87,000 after reporting the car stolen in 1992.
True crime fans have been been having a ball these last two weeks with the offbeat case of a buried Mercedes-Benz found deep underground in an Atherton yard, after it was discovered by a team of landscapers at the property on 351 Stockbridge Avenue in the wealthy San Mateo County community. The vehicle had been “stolen,” or should we say, it had been reported stolen in Palo Alto in 1992 by its owner Johnny Bocktune Lew, whom parenthetically neighbors described as a “crook,” and whose own daughter said her father was “sketchy.” (Lew had also been convicted in 1999 for insurance fraud for paying undercover agents to sink his own $1.2 million yacht.)
The car was removed the next day, and also a veil was removed revealing that Lew had done time for second-degree murder in the 1960s, and attempted murder in the 1970s. Though in terms of murders and such, no human remains were found in the vehicle.
But there was definitely a crime committed in all this. KTVU reports that investigators have determined the whole thing was insurance fraud, as the car had never actually been stolen.
And it was kind of a tell, four days into this whole mystery, when San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe told the Bay Area News Group that the now-deceased Lew had collected $87,000 in insurance money for the car that was, you know, buried on his own property. Initial reports had suggested some other owner of the vehicle who was deceased.
The Chronicle has the fun additional detail that the Mercedes “was filled with bags of unused concrete.”
Lew is long dead, and the family moved out of the house in 2014. According to Zillow, the place last sold for $15 million in March 2020. Will this whole crazy affair help or hurt the property's value? Well, its current Zillow “Zestimate” is now $18.3 million, and its value may be helped by the publicity, or the fact that you just never know what you might find there.