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Michael Gonzalez sold three of the stolen Teslas and burned another in an attempt to collecting money on an insurance claim.

Michael Gonzalez, 34, of Shelburne, VT, was sentenced Oct. 11  in federal court to 48 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release, after he previously pleaded guilty to five counts of possessing and disposing of stolen vehicles that had crossed state lines, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Vermont.

According to court records, in 2018 and 2019, Gonzalez obtained five new Teslas by falsely indicating he would pay for them in full, which he never intended to do. The combined retail price of the five vehicles was more than $560,000. Gonzalez also submitted false statements to the Vermont DMV to obtain titles to these cars. 

Gonzalez sold three of these vehicles to unwitting purchasers, grossing $231,900. When he was unable to sell one of the Teslas, court records said, Gonzalez drove it onto the frozen surface of Lake Champlain in Shelburne Bay, set it on fire and submitted an insurance claim for the value of the vehicle.

The sentence also included an order that Gonzalez pay restitution to Tesla in the amount of $493,043.93, and also forfeit $231,900 to the U.S.

U.S. Attorney Nikolas P. Kerest commended the collaborative investigatory efforts of the U.S. Secret Service, the Investigations Unit of the Vermont DMV Enforcement & Safety, and the police departments of Shelburne, VT, and Seabrook, NH.

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