The mystery of how a Tesla Model X was found burnt to almost nothing on a frozen lake in Vermont is now solved.
It’s a wild story that involves over half a million dollars of fraud exploiting Tesla’s purchasing process.
In February 2019, we reported on the remains of a burnt Tesla Model X being spotted on a frozen Lake Champlain in Vermont.
At the time, there was absolutely no information about how the electric vehicle ended up on the frozen lake.
Now, we actually have the story behind the strange incident thanks to new charges that the Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont brought 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.”
What does this have to do with the Model X found burnt down to its chassis on a frozen lake?
That fifth vehicle that he wasn’t able to resell was this Model X.
Gonzalez used a Florida address and driver’s license to buy the electric SUV for $152,663 and picked it up at a Tesla store in Tampa.
This time, the company didn’t provide him with the title since the final payment never came.
Since he wasn’t able to provide proof of ownership, he couldn’t sell the Model X.
Instead, he drove it onto the frozen lake, which he claimed was to go ice fishing, and the vehicle was subsequently destroyed.
Gonzalez claimed to have heard a sound, exited the vehicle, and it caught fire on its own.
The indictment doesn’t state that Gonzalez burned down the car, but he did file an insurance claim on it, which was declined after he didn’t show up for an examination under oath.
You can make up your own mind about what happened.
Gonzalez was detained last Friday pending a hearing set for this week. He is facing five counts of possessing and selling stolen motor vehicles. He could get up to 10 years in prison for each count.
FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.