Car buried at Atherton mansion possibly concealed for insurance fraud purposes

Authorities believe the mystery behind a Mercedes Benz buried in an Atherton backyard over 30 years ago involves insurance fraud.

Detectives have been investigating the case since Oct. 20 when landscapers discovered the buried 1991 Mercedes Benz 500 SL on the property.

Authorities said Thursday that they suspect the vehicle was concealed for insurance fraud purposes.

John Lew, who formerly owned the property on Stockbridge Avenue where the convertible was discovered, was the car's registered owner. He owned the property from 1991 to 2009.

Lew is deceased.

The Mercedes was buried in the backyard of the $15 million estate sometime in the 1990s. It was buried approximately 4 to 5 feet into the ground.

Authorities said the burial time frame was based on the vehicle being reported as stolen to the Palo Alto Police Department and an insurance claim both from September 1992.

After the vehicle's discovery cadaver dogs were brought to the mansion due to the unknown nature of the Mercedes. 

The dogs picked up a slight hint of human remains, but despite that authorities said there were no remains found inside the car or nearby.