Tesla's Gigafactory will play a crucial role in the company's ability to meet demand for its vehicles in the coming years. But a new report suggests it's also been the subject of millions of dollars in thefts that Elon Musk himself tried to cover up.
In a surprising report on Wednesday, the Reno Gazette Journal said that the sheriffs department in Storey County, Nevada, where the Gigafactory is located, found that when they were trying to investigate reports of millions of dollars in theft at the facility, Tesla's own security officials were thwarting their efforts. As they dug deeper, the report claims, they found that Musk himself knew about the investigations and didn't want Tesla employees aiding any effort that would cause bad publicity.
According to the report, the sheriff's department was investigating claims that there had been "rampant crime" at the facility last year. According to the report, Karl Hansen, a former Tesla employee, said that there had been more than $37 million in copper wire and other materials stolen from the Gigafactory.
However, in a report filed by sheriff deputy Brandon Azevedo and obtained by the Reno Gazette Journal, investigators ran into some problems.
"We were advised that this incident had reached Elon Musk himself," Azevedo wrote, according to the report. "In fear of the 'PR hit' this incident could make, Tesla advised that they will not release any hard copies" about the incident.
If true, it's potentially troubling for Tesla, and the latest in a string of embarrassments for the company. This week, Musk is trying to defend his actions and tweets in the so-called "pedo guy" defamation case. On the witness stand Tuesday, Musk tried to explain his tweeting and how the service works.
Twitter is a place where you'll find "true, untrue, half-true," Musk said, according to the Verge. "It's where people engage in verbal combat. There's anything on Twitter."
That came after a similarly cringeworthy moment last month, when Musk stood onstage as a fellow Tesla employee threw a ball at the window of what he had pitched as a nearly indestructible Cybertruck. The ball blasted a hole through the driver window.
The Gigafactory report, however, suggests that Tesla knowingly impeded a law enforcement investigation into major theft at one of its factories over fears that word of the theft would cause bad publicity.
Worst of all for Tesla, things could get worse.
The report says that Karl Hansen along with fellow former employee Martin Tripp are suing Musk and Tesla. Hansen filed a complaint to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) about the theft. He said Tesla should have disclosed it to shareholders. Whether it should have, or whether the SEC will do anything about the investigation, however, is unknown.
Indeed, neither Tesla nor Musk have publicly commented on the report, and there's no telling what might ultimately come of it.
It is worth noting, however, that the investigators acknowledged in the report that Tesla's cooperation with the investigation improved in 2019.