Two months after four San Mateo County deputy sheriffs raided the workplace of an Indiana Batmobile-maker, an action that drew sharp public criticism of Sheriff Carlos Bolanos, the district attorney's office has dropped all charges against the businessman.
In a press release Monday morning, Sept. 26, District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe announced that he would dismiss the case against Mark Racop, who was facing felony charges and scheduled to appear in county court on Friday.
Wagstaffe, whose decision was based on a review of additional reports filed by the sheriff's office, wrote that "the evidence does not warrant criminal prosecution" and that "the actions of Mr. Racop are best dealt with in civil court proceedings."
On July 19, a felony complaint was filed against Racop, the owner of Fiberglass Freaks, in Logansport, Indiana for failing to deliver on a replica 1966 Batmobile that he'd been hired to build. Atherton realtor Sam Anagnostou accused Racop of "theft by false pretense" after the $210,000 Batmobile that he ordered was delayed.
The dispute hinged on the receipt of the final car payment. While Racop has maintained that his client failed to complete a payment and stopped communicating for several months, Anagnostou alleged that the car-maker received the last installment but kept the money and gave the car to another customer.
After reviewing all the emails between the two parties, Wagstaffe said it was "fairly apparent" that any potential wrongdoing did not constitute a criminal offense.
"In going more in-depth we learned that, no, he didn't give the car to somebody else," he said. "We don't even know if there is a car. And that's a civil dispute."
Wagstaffe said he first heard about the Batmobile case about a year ago, when the Atherton Police Department came to his department on a complaint from Anagnostou. His office initially declined to prosecute. However, in the spring, Anagnostou, whose realty corporation gave $1,000 to the reelection campaigns of both Wagstaffe and Bolanos, called the sheriff to ask him to look into the case. Bolanos assigned his team to investigate Racop and conducted a review of bank records and email correspondence between the two parties. One of Wagstaffe's prosecutors ultimately decided there was enough probable cause to pursue the case and issued an arrest warrant.
In August, following the raid of Racop's business, which received much public attention and scrutiny from the community, Wagstaffe announced that he would be seeking additional information to determine whether to pursue the case.
Additional reports from a sheriff's office investigator were provided to Wagstaffe's office in mid-September, Wagstaffe wrote in the press release. He added that "a full review of the newly acquired information, as well as all of the original investigative reports, was then conducted by my office over the last two weeks."
Wagstaffe said that his office has spoken with Racop's attorney and will file a written motion to dismiss the charges.
"We're putting this one back in the file room as a closed case," he said.