Four Arrested in Tesla Theft: Dirty Crooks or the Ultimate EV Fans?

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
four arrested in tesla theft dirty crooks or the ultimate ev fans

A quartet of suspected baddies were arrested on Friday after being caught with four vehicles believed to be stolen from a Tesla dealership in Salt Lake City. While an automotive theft ring isn’t anything special, the way in which this particular incident unfolded is beyond strange.

According to South Salt Lake police detective Gary Keller, the incident began around 1 a.m. when a Highway Patrol trooper conducting a traffic stop near the dealership noticed a sparkly new Tesla vehicle stop behind his squad car. Smelling something fishy, the patrol trooper assumed the driver wasn’t the owner of the car and called for local backup as he conducted another stop.

Keller said the man had a bag of keys on his person and told police he had come to return the vehicle to the dealership. “I don’t know if he had a guilt complex or whatever, but he claimed his name was Tesla and once [police] started talking to him, he didn’t want to talk to police; he wanted an attorney,” Keller explained.

Getting busted with a bag of keys and immediately asking for legal representation is already pretty suspect. But stating that your name is actually Tesla means one of two things — you’ve stolen that car and are jittery as hell or you’ve changed your name to prove you are the biggest EV fan in history.

According to KSL TV, in Utah, “Tesla” actually turned out to be a 24-year-old man named Shane Smith. His initial run-in with authorities lead police to begin investigating a possible burglary at the dealership. During the investigation, they immediately spotted another Tesla drive by the building — driven by 31-year-old William Weist.

Police claim Smith told them “a guy he hardly knew gave him a free Tesla along with three other keys to other Teslas,” and the keys to the building.

Smith also mentioned he was at the dealership when the building’s alarm sounded for almost half-an-hour and witnessed the building being ransacked, in a statement to the police. The police report added that Smith was in possession of a business license to the dealership, a certificate of commerce, and a $49,500 check written to Tesla.

With Weist and Smith already in custody, police reported the recovery of two other vehicles later that same morning. One of the vehicles was pulled over by the West Valley City police, while another was spotted outside a liquor store in Salt Lake City. Zachary Hallman (19) and Earlene Parker (27) were arrested for being in possession of stolen property. Both drivers told police a man named “Tesla” had given them the vehicles.

“Somehow the doors were not pried or broken open,” Keller said. “We believe they went into the building with keys or possibly the doors were open. We don’t know at this time.”

“It’s one of those cases where you’re going, ‘What?’ and you’re scratching your head,” he continued. “The good thing is we have four people in custody and hopefully all the property returned.”

[Image: Tesla Motors]

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  • Stingray65 Stingray65 on Nov 27, 2017

    Average IQ of people in prison is in the mid-80s to low 90s, so these guys should fit right in. Stealing a Tesla with limited range, long refueling time, and ability to be tracked and remotely disabled by the manufacturer is not the work of rocket scientists.

  • Flipper35 Flipper35 on Nov 27, 2017

    I can imagine a high speed chase with low batteries would be short.

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  • Chris P Bacon Ford and GM have decided that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Odds are Chrysler/Cerberus/FCA/Stellantis is next to join in. If any of the companies like Electrify America had been even close to Tesla in reliability, we wouldn't be here.
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  • Chris P Bacon I see no reference to Sweden or South Carolina. I hate to assume, but is this thing built in China? I can't help but wonder if EVs would be more affordable to the masses if they weren't all stuffed full of horsepower most drivers will never use. How much could the price be reduced if it had, say, 200hp. Combined with the instant torque of an EV, that really is plenty of power for the daily commuter, which is what this vehicle really is.