In February of 2019, an unexpected ornament adorned the frozen surface of Lake Champlain in Vermont: a Tesla Model X, burned into an extra-crisp shell. According to local Vermont news site WCAX, a man identified by police as Michael A. Gonzales claimed he drove over a frozen patch of Shelburne Bay for ice fishing.
No one knows for sure, but Gonzales may have hit a rock and Tesla ended up with a delicious fireball; Yet it barely made a dent in the thick snow. Within days of the Model X spontaneously catching fire on the lake (some Tesla Motors Club forum commentators blame the Lake Champlain monster, whatever) a flatbed truck was dispatched to haul away the carcass. After the Roadrunner blows it up on TNT for the hundredth time, Model X’s Wiley E. Looked like a coyote. The news itself is strange enough, but here’s the follow-up story we didn’t see coming: A federal indictment recently states that Gonzales allegedly committed theft of several Model Xs totaling $607,000.
Here’s what happened, according to the indictment at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the state of Vermont:
“Between September 2018 and January 2021, Gonzalez received five Tesla vehicles from dealerships in New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, and Florida, worth a total of approximately $607,000. For each vehicle, Gonzalez made an initial payment of approximately $2,500, and then arranged an electronic fund transfer to cover the balance of the vehicle’s cost from accounts with insufficient funds or fictitious accounts.
The statement continued: “Gonzalez took delivery of vehicles from Tesla before Tesla learned of a failure to meet final payments. Gonzalez resold or attempted to resell four of the five vehicles. To Gonzalez Necessary paperwork was never issued to resell the fifth vehicle, which later burned down on a frozen section of Shelburne Bay on February 24, 2019. Gonzalez used insurance funds for the value of this burnt Tesla. Tried to make a claim, but the insurance claim was denied.”
Vermont Independent News Blog Seven Days reported that Gonzales made a reservation for his fourth Tesla Model X with someone else’s driving license in March 2019 for $136,710. He then reportedly registered the car with the Vermont DMV and transferred the title to his name. Here’s a description that will make you go “Huh?” Forces to say. – He reportedly claimed he traded a 2013 Kia Optima worth $8,200 for a Tesla, then flipped it on eBay for about $100,000. Nice work if you can get it. However, if caught, the boosted car comes with a bonus of up to 10 years per violation for illegal possession and sale.
Upon indictment, the acting U.S. Attorney stated that the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. And at this juncture, Gonzales has pleaded not guilty.
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