Four suspects were arrested for stealing four Tesla cars from a Utah showroom Friday, according to jail records. But the suspects may not know much about the luxury electric car company.
Two of the suspects tried telling South Salt Lake police that they were members of the “Tesla family,” and that “Mr. Tesla” had given them the vehicles, police told Fox 13.
“One guy claimed a family member had died and left them all this stuff, but two of them actually said (it was given to them) by Tesla,” South Salt Lake police detective Gary Keller told KSL.
The cars were worth about $80,000 a piece, Keller told KSL.
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The electric car company was founded in 2003. Nikola Tesla, the eccentric inventor the automaker is named after, died in 1943, Business Insider reports — and his family had nothing to do with the company’s creation.
One of the suspects apprehended by highway patrol officers Friday had a different story about how he’d come by the flashy vehicle. He told authorities that a man he barely knew had given him the Tesla he was driving for free, and had also given him the keys to three other Tesla vehicles, according to police records reviewed by the Salt Lake Tribune.
That suspect, Shane Craig Smith, 24, was charged Friday with felony receipt or transfer of a stolen vehicle and felony forgery, as well as theft by receiving stolen property, according to Salt Lake County jail records.
Police said they pulled Smith over because he was acting suspiciously while driving a Tesla car, Fox 13 reports. They impounded the car and drove Smith to a nearby Tesla dealership, to which Smith had keys, in addition to the four sets of Tesla keys he had on him, according to a probable cause statement reviewed by Fox 13.
When police arrived, the dealership had clearly been ransacked, they said. Smith told police that alarms had been going off at the dealership when he was there to pick up the car and that the showroom had already been plundered, the probable cause statement said, according to Fox 13.
Smith told police he “took the keys and a vehicle. He felt it was allowed because the police hadn’t shown up yet,” the probable cause statement said, according to Fox 13. “[Smith] had in his possession the business license to the dealership, certificate of commerce, and a check written to Tesla for $49,500 with his name as the endorsement on the back of the check.”
One of the suspects tried to lead police on a car chase, but it didn’t last long, according to Keller, the police spokesman. The battery wasn’t sufficiently charged and the stolen car died mid-chase, police told the Tribune.
When the car died, the suspect took off on foot, police told Gephardt Daily. Police caught up with him, they said, and took him to the hospital with a foot injury.
“We are still trying to sort this out,” Keller told the Tribune. Two suspects had to be fingerprinted to figure out who — if not Teslas — they actually were, Keller said.
Zachary Hallman, 19, was charged with felony receipt or transfer of a stolen vehicle and felony burglary, jail records said. Hallman is being held on $245 bond.
Earlene Parker, 27, was also allegedly caught with a stolen Tesla, Fox 13 reports. Parker was charged with felony receipt or transfer of a stolen vehicle, according to jail records, and is being held on $5,000 bond. Parker was also charged in September with shoplifting.
Hallman and Parker both told police that “Tesla” had given them the car, KSL reports.
“It’s one of those cases where you just have to scratch your head and say, ‘Really?’ ” Keller told the Tribune.
The dealership’s showroom was entered using a key, Keller told the Tribune, so authorities are trying to see if the alleged burglary could be related to another home or vehicle burglary.
A fourth suspect, William Weist, was also arrested, Fox 13 reports. Weist was charged with possession of a controlled substance, jail records said.