IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Car buried in Silicon Valley in the ’90s may have been put there for insurance fraud, police say

The Mercedes-Benz found buried in one of the country’s most expensive areas had been reported stolen. It belonged to a former property owner who has since died.

A Mercedes-Benz found buried in the backyard of a home in an affluent San Francisco-area community may have been put there for insurance fraud, Atherton police said Thursday.

The 1991 500 SL was found buried beneath 4 to 5 feet of earth as landscapers were working on a project at the home on Oct. 20.

Unused bags of cement were in the car, and cadaver dogs made what police said was “a slight notification of possible human remains,” fueling speculation about who buried it and why.

Investigators say they have yet to find human remains inside a car found buried in a San Francisco area backyard.
Law enforcement officers investigate a car found buried in a San Francisco area backyard on Oct. 21.KNTV

No remains were found, not even including after ground-penetrating radar was used and the San Mateo County sheriff’s office forensic laboratory processed the car, police said.

“Detectives are still investigating this incident and it is believed the vehicle was possibly buried for insurance fraud purposes,” Atherton Police Chief Steven D. McCulley said in Thursday’s statement.

The car was reported stolen to Palo Alto police in 1992, and an insurance claim was made. The car was registered to the man who once owned the property where it would be found buried three decades later, police said.

The owner, John Lew, has since died, and the property has changed hands, police have said.

Lew was convicted in 2000 of insurance fraud after he paid undercover agents $50,000 in cash and jewelry to sink his 56-foot yacht — worth $1.2 million — NBC Bay Area has reported. He had also been convicted of attempted murder in the 1970s and served three years in prison, the station reported.

Atherton, a town of around 7,100, is adjacent to Menlo Park, home of the headquarters of Facebook’s parent company, Meta, and less than 10 miles from Mountain View, where Google is headquartered.

It was ranked as the country’s most expensive ZIP code for a fifth consecutive year last November, according to the real estate information company PropertyShark. It had a median sale price of $7.5 million.