Man who swindled 5 free cars from Tesla gets 4 years sentence

A man who managed to swindle Tesla into give him one car for free after the other has received a 4-yea sentence for the fraud.

This wild story first hit our radar back in 2019 when we reported on the remains of a burnt Tesla Model X being spotted on a frozen Lake Champlain in Vermont – pictured above.

At the time, there was absolutely no information about how the electric vehicle ended up on the frozen lake.

It took another two years for us to learn of the man behind the strange sight.

In 2021, we reported on the Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont bringing a case against Michael A. Gonzalez, a 32-year-old man from Colchester, Vermont.

When the vehicle was first discovered, our leading theory was insurance fraud.

According to the indictment, that theory turned out to be accurate, but the backstory is much crazier than we could have expected.

The United States Secret Service and the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles revealed that Gonzalez exploited Tesla’s purchasing system to buy vehicles and take possession while not allowing the final payment to go through.

He would then sell the vehicles to used dealerships or individuals online.

They wrote in the indictment:

“According to the indictment filed in the case, between September 2018 and January 2021, Gonzalez obtained five Tesla vehicles worth a total of approximately $607,000 from dealerships in New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, and Florida. For each vehicle, Gonzalez made an initial payment of approximately $2,500, and then arranged for electronic funds transfers to cover the balance of the vehicle’s price from accounts with insufficient funds or from fictitious accounts. Gonzalez took delivery of the vehicles from Tesla before Tesla discovered his failure to complete the final payments. Gonzalez resold or attempted to resell four of the five vehicles.”

The Model X found burnt down on the frozen lake was the fifth and last Tesla vehicle to be part of Gonzalez’s scheme.

He reportedly wasn’t able to sell the vehicle and decided to burn it down, and make a fraudulent insurance claim instead.

Today, the US attorney’s office in Vermont announced that Gonzalez was sentenced to 4 years in prison:

The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Vermont stated that on October 11, 2023, Michael Gonzalez, 34, of Shelburne, Vermont, was sentenced by Chief United States District Judge Geoffrey Crawford to a term of 48 months’ imprisonment to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release. Gonzalez previously pleaded guilty to five counts of possessing and disposing of stolen vehicles that had crossed state lines.

This end the saga of the burnt Model X on a frozen lake in Vermont.