A former Tesla employee was charged by a federal grand jury today of embezzling roughly $US9.3 ($13) million from Elon Musk’s electric car company over the course of two years. The indictment comes as the result of an FBI inquiry.
The employee, 32-year-old Salil Parulekar, allegedly engaged in a scheme that involved diverting payments, falsifying invoices, identity theft, and impersonating an employee of one of Tesla’s suppliers, according to the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California on Thursday:
According to the indictment, Parulekar learned in January 2017 that Tesla had terminated its supplier relationship with Schwabische Huttenwerke Automotive GmbH (“SHW”). At the time of the termination, SHW had only provided a limited number of sample products, specifically, motor pumps, to Tesla. Parulekar allegedly knew the termination meant that Tesla was withholding future payments to SHW and that Parulekar was not authorised to contravene this decision. Notwithstanding these facts, Parulekar redirected a series of payments intended for another supplier, Hota Industrial Manufacturing Co., Ltd. (“Hota”), and caused them to be paid to SHW.
Parulekar is being charged with nine counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. According to the DOJ, each count of wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $US250,000 ($343,106) fine; the maximum penalty for the aggravated identity theft charge is two years in prison and a $US250,000 ($343,106) fine.
A LinkedIn page appearing to belong to Parulekar indicates someone by the same name worked for Tesla for more than four years, and, if the information presented there is accurate, continued to work there as recently as last December.
Gizmodo has reached out to both Tesla and the prosecution for comment and will update this article if we hear back.