A former Tesla employee has filed a formal whistleblower complaint with the SEC alleging that Tesla failed to disclose that authorities had discovered an alleged drug trafficking scheme involving an employee at the firm’s “Gigafactory” plant in Nevada. Among the other claims in the complaint, the whistleblower also describes the theft of more than $37 million worth of copper from Elon Musk’s Nevada facility.
Jalopnik reports that a former Tesla employee has stepped forward to file an official whistleblower complaint with the SEC alleging that Tesla failed to disclose to shareholders that authorities had discovered that a worker at the firm’s Gigafactory in Nevada had been involved in a drug trafficking operation in which “substantial” amounts of cocaine and possibly meth were transported.
Karl Hansen worked as part of Tesla’s internal security department and investigations division, he is now joining former Gigafactory technician Martin Tripp as the second company employee to file a whistleblower complaint with the SEC. While Tripp was alleging that Elon Musk hid major manufacturing issues, Hansen’s claims are much more explosive. In a statement, Hansen said: “I hope that shining a light on Tesla’s practices will cause appropriate governmental action against the company and its management.”
Attorney Stuart Meissner is representing both Hansen and Tripp and published a summary of Hansen’s August 9 complaint this week. Meisner stated in an email that his client authorized the release of the summary, stating: “I would not be distributing such without such authorization, as I do not want other whistleblowers to think that we distribute their identity or even discuss their matters publicly at all, as we do not, unless they request such.”
One of Hansen’s claims is that Tesla failed to reveal information sent by the DEA relating to evidence of “substantial drug trafficking” by an employee at the Gigafactory. Meissner stated that “several” employees were allegedly involved in drug trafficking but has since revised his statement to claim only one was involved and “referred to several members of the cartel allegedly located in Mexico who were NOT Tesla employees.”
Meissner told Jalopnik that the DEA received an anonymous tip with detailed information about a Gigfactory employee who was allegedly distributing “substantial quantities” of cocaine and possibly meth. The DEA then reached out to the Tesla to investigate the issue internally, according to Meissner. Hansen alleges in his complaint that Tesla received a written notification from a DEA and Storey County Sheriff’s Office task force in May, “alleging that a Tesla employee may be a participant in a narcotics trafficking ring involving the sale of significant quantities of cocaine and possibly crystal methamphetamine at the Gigafactory on behalf of a Mexican drug cartel from Sonora Mexico.”
Hansen claims that on June 12, he told his employer that he had “corroborated connections between a certain Tesla employee at the time and various alleged members of the Mexican drug cartel identified in the DEA report as located in Mexico, that he urged Tesla to disclose his findings to law enforcement and to the DEA task force, but that Tesla refused to do so and instead advised him that Tesla would hire ‘outside vendors’ to further investigate the issue.”
Hansen alleges that he reported the results to three separate supervisors but that neither the company’s board of directors or members of the public were notified about the findings. Hansen further alleges that the Gigafactory employee the was the subject of the DEA trafficking tip wasn’t “terminated upon receipt of the DEA tip or anytime during the entire time that Mr. Hansen was employed by Tesla, to his knowledge.”
Storey County Sheriff Gerald Antinoro said in a statement released last week that his office “cannot confirm nor deny the existence of an ongoing investigation of drug activity that is connected to the Gigafactory.” The statement added: “The Storey County Sheriff’s Office has no record of having ever been contacted by Karl Hansen.”
Tesla CEO Elon Musk commented on Hansen’s claims stating: “He is simultaneously saying that our security sucks (it’s not great, but I’m pretty sure we aren’t a branch of the Sinaloa cartel like he claims) and that we have amazing spying ability. Those can’t both be true.” When contacted by Jalopnik, a DEA spokesperson didn’t have an immediate comment while an SEC spokesperson declined to comment.
A Tesla spokesperson said that Hansen’s allegations were taken “very seriously when he brought them forward.” The spokesperson went on to say that “Some of his claims are outright false. Others could not be corroborated, so we suggested additional investigative steps to try and validate the information he had received second-hand from a single anonymous source.”
The statement continued: “Because we wanted to be sure we got this right, we made numerous attempts to engage further with Mr. Hansen to understand more about what he was claiming and the work that he did in reaching his conclusions. He rejected each of those attempts, and to date has refused to speak with the company further. It seems strange that Mr. Hansen would claim that he is concerned about something happening within the company, but then refuse to engage with the company to discuss the information that he believes he has.”
Hansen further alleges that he had discovered that approximately $37 million of copper and raw materials had been stolen from Tesla’s Gigafactory between January and June but alleged that he was “instructed not to report the thefts to outside law enforcement” and “that he was directed to cease his internal investigation into the issue.” It was reported in May that an operations associate manager at Tesla’s assembly plant in Fremont, California, alleged that he was fired from the firm after telling supervisors about a colleague that was stealing company-owned auto parts.
Hansen also claims that after Martin Tripp let the company, Tesla “went so far as to install specialized router equipment within its Nevada Gigafactory designed to capture employee cell phone communications and/or retrieve employee cell phone data.”
Hansen also claims that CEO Elon Musk was aware of his findings relating to drug trafficking. Meissner stated: “It seems that the manner in which it was handled, in telling my client not to report it back to the authorities that requested it be investigated raises an issue of potential obstruction of justice, which is a serious crime. If senior people at Tesla were involved in that, well, I think that’s very material for shareholders to know.”