Former Tesla Employee Charged in Embezzlement Scheme Totaling $9.3 Million

The worker redirected payments by falsifying invoices and even stealing the identity of a supplier’s employee.

byRob Stumpf|
Electric Vehicles photo

The United States Department of Justice announced Thursday that it indicted a former Tesla employee on nine counts of wire fraud after federal officials claim he embezzled more than $9.3 million of the automaker's money.

According to the indictment, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) found that former employee Salil Parulekar orchestrated a complex embezzlement scheme throughout 2016 and 2017. Although the motive for his actions is still unclear, officials claim that Parulekar allegedly funneled money from one supplier to another when he learned that Tesla would officially stop working with a German pump supplier called Schwabische Huttenwerke Automotive GmbH (SHW).

As a member of Tesla's Global Supply Management division, Parulekar used this knowledge to find a supplier in good standing with the automaker to act as an intermediary to continue funneling money to SHW. He chose Hota Industrial Manufacturing Co., a Taiwanese supply company which currently manufacturers both gears and axles for the Model 3, to be his patsy.

Despite Tesla's relationship with SHW lasting a short period of time, the automaker continued to make payments to it due to the complex scheme Parulekar engineered. And while Tesla thought it was actually paying invoices to Hota for services rendered, the money was actually being paid to SHW. Again, it's unclear if Parulekar struck a deal with SHW or if he had a vested interest in the German company, but it's noted in the legal documents that at some point Parulekar pretended to be an employee of Hota to provide false bank account information to Tesla so the money would actually be routed to SHW's financial institution.

Officially, Parulekar is charged with nine counts of wire fraud amounting to $9.3 million, as well as one count of aggravated identity theft. If convicted, each count of wire fraud could carry a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000. The additional charge of identity theft could result in two years of imprisonment and the same monetary fine of $250,000.

At the time of writing, Tesla has not responded to The Drive's request for comment.