A 32-year-old Indian man, a former employee at American electric car manufacturer Tesla, has been charged for allegedly stealing USD 9.3 million from the company by falsifying financial documents to divert payments from one supplier to another.
Salil Parulekar has been charged with nine counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. If convicted, the maximum penalty for each count of wire fraud is twenty years’ imprisonment and a USD 250,000 fine.
The maximum sentence for aggravated identity theft is two years in prison and a USD 250,000 fine.
A federal grand jury issued an indictment against Parulekar last week, charging him with engaging in the embezzlement scheme, US Attorney Alex Tse and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent in Charge John Bennett said.
According to the indictment, during 2016 and 2017, Parulekar, formerly of San Jose, orchestrated the embezzlement scheme at Tesla.
At the time, Parulekar was an employee in the Global Supply Management group at Tesla. He was responsible for overseeing Tesla’s relationship with certain suppliers for various parts and services related to Tesla automobiles.
Parulekar allegedly used his role to initiate a scheme wherein he diverted money owed to one Tesla supplier and caused it to be paid to another supplier. In all, he allegedly embezzled approximately USD 9.3 million.
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, the 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 the 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 and caused them to be paid to the SHW.
The indictment alleges Parulekar caused the diversion of payments by falsifying invoices; creating fraudulent accounts payable documents, such as bank account information and wire instructions; and impersonating Hota employees.
Specifically, Parulekar allegedly stole the identity of a Hota employee and by impersonating the employee, deceived Tesla’s Accounts Payable division into switching the bank account information for Hota and SHW.
Parulekar had studied Mechanical Engineering at the University of Mumbai and earned his Masters in Industrial Engineering from North Carolina State University, according to his LinkedIn profile.