Back in late February of 2019, a Tesla Model X was discovered burnt to the ground on a frozen lake in Vermont. It was discovered by another Tesla driver who posted about it on the Tesla Motors Club forum giving rise to all sorts of theories as to how and why it was there and in such a bad state.
Naturally, some people assumed that the vehicle had suffered some kind of major malfunction and that it had burnt down on its own, while others suspected attempted insurance fraud. Now, though, we know what really happened and the car is not to blame. Electrek published this update saying it had new information that could lay all the rumors and speculation to rest.
So apparently a certain Michael A. Gonzales, 32, who lives in Colchester, Vermont who had a very bad habit of buying Teslas, taking possession after making a small initial payment and then not allowing the full payment to actually go through. He then reportedly proceeded to sell on the Teslas that were not actually his (to both dealerships and private individuals). The source also quotes his indictment as saying that
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.
And this brings us to the burnt Model X, which was the fifth vehicle that Gonzales had been able to procure through the aforementioned method. However, this time he was not given the vehicle title before the full payment went through, so instead of returning the vehicle, where he probably set fire to it.
This last part has not yet been confirmed, because he officially states that he was on the lake ice fishing where he heard a noise, existed the vehicle and then it burst into flames. Now knowing all of the above, his version seems pretty improbable, and he even filed an insurance claim that was denied because he was required to be part of the vehicle’s examination and he never showed up for it.
He is now reportedly in custody awaiting a hearing and he faces many years in jail for five counts of possessing and selling what essentially were stolen vehicles.