A 34-year-old man from Vermont that managed to deceive Tesla out of five brand-new cars worth over $560,000 is going to prison. After taking possession of the cars he attempted to sell four of them, and ultimately set one that he couldn’t sell ablaze on the frozen surface of Lake Champlain to try and cash in on the insurance policy.
Federal prosecutors have now handed down a prison sentence in what has become an extraordinary case of deception and destruction.
The elaborate scheme began in 2018 and 2019 when the Vermont man decided to scam Tesla by reserving five vehicles without having any intention to pay the purchase price. He initiated the scam by providing a down payment of approximately $2,500 for each car, followed by money transfers from an account with insufficient funds, creating an illusion that he was going to cover the remaining balances. Astonishingly, two cars were delivered to him, and he personally collected the other three, all under false pretenses.
Having secured these vehicles, the man managed to sell three of them to unsuspecting buyers for a total of $231,900, lying to the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles to obtain titles for the cars. However, he encountered a roadblock when he couldn’t sell the fourth car due to the absence of a manufacturer’s certificate of origin, which is essential for title and registration purposes.
The man decided to drive the unsellable Model X onto the frozen Lake Champlain in Vermont in February 2019 and set it on fire, all while lacking the necessary state license to do so. He later submitted an insurance claim to Geico to claim the full value of the Tesla he had intentionally destroyed, adding a further layer of deception to his criminal endeavors.
As a consequence of his elaborate scam, the man was sentenced to four years in prison by U.S. District Judge Geoffrey Crawford on October 11. He had previously pleaded guilty to five counts related to the possession and disposal of stolen vehicles across state lines. Additionally, he was ordered to pay $493,043.93 in restitution to Tesla and forfeit $231,900 to the government. His prison sentence will be followed by three years of supervised release.
In a statement, his defense attorney emphasized that the man “took full responsibility for his actions” and showed remorse and commitment to restitution, highlighting the peculiar nature of the case. Tesla, on the other hand, learned a costly lesson about trusting deceptive individuals and the extremes some might go to perpetrate a fraud.