An Indian ex-employee of Tesla has been charged with embezzling $9.3 million

Crossing the T.
Crossing the T.
Image: REUTERS/Aly Song
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A former Tesla employee from India has been charged by US federal prosecutors for allegedly embezzling $9.3 million (Rs67 crore) from the company, a statement from the US department of justice (DoJ) shows.

The accused, Salil Parulekar, 32, was a group manager for global supply management and industrialisation at the electric-car maker’s Palo Alto headquarters till December last year. On Nov. 08, a grand jury indicted him on charges that he fraudulently diverted payments from an existing supplier of the company to a former one.

The DoJ statement says that in January 2017, the accused learned that Tesla had ended its contract with SHW, a German automotive supplier. “Parulekar allegedly knew the termination meant that Tesla was withholding future payments to SHW and that Parulekar was not authorised to contravene this decision,” the DoJ statement says. But, he allegedly diverted a series of payments meant for Taiwan-based Hota, another supplier to Tesla, and “caused them to be paid to SHW.”

The indictment contends that Parulekar did so “by falsifying invoices; creating fraudulent accounts payable documents, such as bank account information and wire instructions; and impersonating Hota employees.” He allegedly stole the identity of a Hota employee to deceive Tesla’s accounts division into switching the bank account information of Hota and SHW.

SHW declined to comment to queries from Quartz, and an email sent to Tesla did not elicit any response.

The probe was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The US attorney has charged Parulekar with nine counts of wire fraud (legal speak for financial fraud involving telecommunications) and one count of aggravated identity theft. If convicted, he can be awarded a maximum sentence of 20 years, along with a fine of $2.5 million, under US law.

Parulekar left India in 2008 to pursue a masters in industrial engineering from North Carolina State University. He is a graduate of Mumbai’s KJ Somaiya College of Engineering. He joined Tesla in 2013, and became a group manager in October last year.