In a plot resembling something out of a Hollywood movie, a man who managed to hoodwink Tesla into delivering five brand-new cars to him has now found himself behind bars.
Michael Gonzalez, 34, has been sentenced to four years in prison for an audacious scheme that involved driving one of the vehicles onto a frozen lake and setting it ablaze in an elaborate ploy to claim insurance money.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Vermont, Gonzalez’s cunning exploits revolved around exploiting a loophole in Tesla’s payment system, ultimately acquiring five brand-new electric vehicles valued at over $560,000. Prosecutors assert that he achieved this by “falsely indicating he was prepared to pay the full purchase price.”
Shockingly, Gonzalez harbored no intention of paying for the cars, and he went a step further by selling three of them to unsuspecting buyers. This act followed his deception of the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles, which issued him titles for the cars based on fraudulent information.
When faced with a situation where Tesla refused to provide a certificate of ownership for one of the cars, rendering it impossible to get the vehicle titled, Gonzalez resorted to an astonishing plan. He drove the car onto the frozen expanse of Lake Champlain, ignited it, and attempted to file an insurance claim for the loss.
As part of his sentencing, Gonzalez will spend four years in prison, followed by three years of probation. He has also been directed to make substantial restitution payments, including $493,043 to Tesla and an additional $231,900 to the United States government.
Gonzalez’s audacious deception involved submitting false bank details to Tesla’s online payment portal, leading the company to deliver the cars before realizing the accounts held insufficient funds. In one daring incident, Gonzalez outmaneuvered a repo man attempting to retrieve one of the Model X vehicles, swiftly escaping and secreting it in a storage unit. During an insurance investigation into the torched vehicle, his ownership of the Tesla raised suspicion.
Gonzalez also dodged an interview with the company that would have required him to furnish a title, which set off alarm bells.
Tesla’s official policy dictates that it will not release a car until full payment has been received, highlighting the remarkable audacity of Gonzalez’s escapade.