Tesla that reportedly burned down on an ice lake tied to theft

Image for article titled Remember the Chartered Tesla Model X Left on the Frozen Lake?  New allegations of theft paint a clearer picture

Photo: D Merrill. Used with permission.

you a. may remember the story of Tesla Model X that burned down On the frozen surface of Lake Champlain’s Shelburne Bay in Vermont in February of 2019. Police reports at the time said the owner took the Model X to fish on the lake, and the car hit a cliff. Shortly after that, it burned down (surprisingly, without falling through the snow). Nobody got hurt, and that’s really all anyone knew.

On Friday, a Vermont man named Michael Gonzalez was charged with stealing $607,000 worth of Tesla between September 2018 and January of this year. District of Vermont US Attorney’s Office.

Gonzalez reportedly acquired the cars by making a down payment, then paying the dues by pulling from fake accounts or accounts with insufficient funds. He then reportedly sold or tried to sell four of the five Teslas.

Can anyone guess what might have happened to Gonzalez that he could not get rid of? According to the attorney’s office, here’s the charge:

Gonzalez took delivery of the vehicles from Tesla before Tesla learned of the failure to meet the final payment. Gonzalez resold or attempted to resell four of the five vehicles. The necessary paperwork was never issued to resell the fifth vehicle to Gonzalez, which later burned down on a frozen section of Shelburne Bay on February 24, 2019. Gonzalez attempted to claim an insurance fund for the value of this burnt Tesla, but the insurance claim was denied.

Prosecutors say Gonzalez acquired these vehicles “from dealerships in New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and Florida.” Tesla technically does not have dealerships, instead calling retail locations “stores”. In some states where direct selling stores are not permitted, the company operates “galleries” where visitors can view display models, yet are prohibited from discussing buying one. Importantly, Tesla operates stores in each of those four states.. Jalopnik called the attorney’s office for clarification and we’ll update this story with what we learn.

A user at the time the fire started Tesla Motors Club Forums who saw it shared their story as well as the image seen at the top of this post. Some respondents were skeptical of the alleged course of events – as are users of the platform – and the theory of possible insurance fraud. In this example, he would have guessed correctly. Or, maybe this particular Tesla just got it extremely Unlucky during an ice fishing trip, and its demise had nothing to do with the fact that this man reportedly had a hard time flipping it.

According to the attorney’s office, Gonzalez is facing five counts of sale and possession of stolen motor vehicles, and up to 10 years in custody for each count if convicted. Jalopnik has reached out to Gonzalez’s attorney, Chandler Mattson, and we await comment.

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