A Tesla thief in Vermont who loopholed payment of the electric vehicles directly from the automaker to obtain over $500,000 in cars has been sentenced to four years in prison.
Michael Gonzalez of Shelburne, Vermont, figured out a loophole in Tesla’s payment system that let him obtain five cars worth $560,000. He sold three of them for $231,900 and never paid any money for them when he took delivery.
According to MarketWatch, Gonzalez took a $153,000 Model X to a frozen lake after unsuccessfully attempting to secure the title for the car. He torched it and filed an insurance claim.
Gonzalez was caught and pleaded guilty in April to five counts of possessing and disposing of stolen vehicles. He agreed to pay $493,000 back to Tesla, and the $231,900 he made by selling three of the five cars was forfeited to the U.S. government.
“Michael took full responsibility for his actions,” Chandler Matson, Gonzalez’s attorney, said. “He showed true remorse and commitment to restitution and respect for the justice system.”
Gonzalez’s loophole was completed by entering bank account details into Tesla’s online payment portal, but the accounts had little to no money in them.
Tesla would deliver the car and its title and then receive a notice that the accounts Gonzalez had insufficient funds.
He did this on multiple occasions, first with a Model 3 in September 2018. He sold the Model 3 to a used car dealership. He would also use the names of girlfriends to avoid detection. Two of the vehicles were sold on Craigslist and eBay for $108,000 and $97,000, respectively.
While in prison for a separate federal charge for allegedly lying on a firearms application, he said to a girlfriend that he planned to sell a car that was nearly repoed to a buyer in New Hampshire, and told her where it was hidden. He was recorded by the prison on the telephone telling her this information.
I’d love to hear from you! If you have any comments, concerns, or questions, please email me at email@example.com. You can also reach me on Twitter @KlenderJoey, or if you have news tips, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.