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Bentley driver in chase was a former luxury car dealer in Chicago

February 10, 2009 |  2:40 pm

California Highway Patrol officers take cover behind a cruiser door with weapons drawn as they watch the suspect white Bentley.

A driver who led Los Angeles police on a more than three-hour, low-speed chase in a Bentley before shooting himself to death early this morning was identified as a former Chicago-area resident who once rented out luxury cars in the Loop for as much as $3,500 a day, authorities said.

Authorities this afternoon had not officially identified the man, but family members and Los Angeles police sources said he was Mustafa "Moe" Mustafa and was believed to have been in his late 20s. Mustafa grew up in Chicago's southwest suburbs, and he owned a condominium in the South Loop, according to family members and public records.

Mustafa shot himself after more than a dozen police cruisers surrounded his white Bentley near Universal City, police sources said. He was taken to a local hospital, where he later died, according to the Los Angeles County coroner's office.

"It appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot," said one police source, who said Mustafa was distraught over the loss of his business.

Mustafa had once operated luxury car rentals in the Loop and in Las Vegas. However, a family member said, that a dispute with a longtime girlfriend who lives in Los Angeles sparked the incident. Mustafa had recently moved to L.A. to be with the woman, said the family member, who did not want to be identified.

Police sources said Mustafa was suspected of assault with a deadly weapon on his girlfriend. They also suspected from the start of the chase that he was armed. The chase began shortly before 8 p.m. Monday, Los Angeles police Officer Karen Smith said. Driving less than 40 mph, the man behind the wheel of the more than $100,000 car began leading officers southbound on the 101 Freeway through Hollywood, and kept heading south on different freeways nearly to the coast, then headed back north before stopping on Lankershim Boulevard near a well-lighted Toyota dealership.

An unidentified dark-haired woman approached the car and appeared to attempt to talk to someone in the Bentley. As police waved her away, the trunk popped open, and police cars quickly lined up behind it; officers then trained their weapons on the car from behind the open doors of more than a dozen squad cars. News helicopters hovered over the scene, and authorities kept back a crowd of photographers and gawkers.

Mustafa, wearing a close-cropped beard and sunglasses, could be seen on some of the live TV coverage sitting in the front seat for nearly 90 minutes after stopping. According to public records, Mustafa had operated an "exotic car" rental business, with locations in Chicago and Las Vegas. Records also show that Mustafa had several luxury cars registered in his name, including a 2006 BMW, 2007 Chevrolet Corvette, 2007 Cadillac Escalade and a 2007 Hummer.

In a 2005 Crain's Chicago Business profile of Chicago Exotic Car Rentals -- one of the businesses Mustafa had operated -- the article listed automobiles the company rented out, such as a 2004 Ferrari, 360 Spider, a 2005 Bentley Continental GT and a 2005 Lamborghini Gallardo. He listed his rental prices as $275 to $3,500 a day.

Mustafa told Crain's that his clientele consisted of "Celebrities like Kanye West and people interested in trying something special for a weekend, anniversary or bachelor party."

Nick Campbell, the director of operations for Rent-A-Vette, a Las Vegas rental car business, knew Mustafa when he owned a competing business in the city. He described Mustafa as friendly, smart and "straightforward." Campbell said Mustafa got his start in Internet marketing before getting into the car rental business. Campbell said Mustafa tried to sell his business to Rent-A-Vette a few years ago but eventually sold it to someone else.

Once Mustafa left Las Vegas, he sometimes referred customers to Rent-A-Vette, Campbell said. The last time anyone from Rent-A-Vette came in contact with Mustafa was roughly six months ago when Mustafa referred a customer to them. When Mustafa was trying to sell his business a few years ago, Campbell said, he remembers Mustafa saying he was planning to go back to Chicago but talked about starting businesses in Los Angeles and Miami.

-- Andrew Blankstein, Jeremy Gorner and Noreen Ahmed-Ullah

Photo: California Highway Patrol officers take cover behind a cruiser door with weapons drawn as they watch the suspect white Bentley. Credit: Dan Steinberg / Associated Press

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