Ex-Tesla Employee Accused of Stealing, Leaking Data

Tesla is suing a former employee at its Nevada battery factory alleging that he hacked into the manufacturing computers and disclosed confidential trade secrets. The federal lawsuit contends that Martin Tripp of Sparks, Nev., also made false claims to the media about information he stole, including claims that the company used punctured battery cells in the Model 3 electric car.
(AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

(CN) – Tesla claims in court that a former employee illegally accessed computers at the electric car maker’s battery factory in Nevada and stole proprietary information before leaking some of it to the press.

Martin Tripp, a former Tesla process technician, was hired on at the company’s Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada, in October 2017, but quickly started to have performance issues, according to Tesla’s federal lawsuit filed Wednesday by lead attorney Joshua Sliker with Jackson Lewis.

At times, he was “disruptive and combative with his colleagues,” according to the 13-page complaint, which prompted his managers to reassign him to another job.

Tripp allegedly responded to the perceived slight by writing and using hacking software to break into Tesla’s systems before transferring several gigabytes of stolen data to numerous third parties, including news outlets.

He also allegedly took pictures and video of Tesla’s manufacturing systems and admitted to Tesla investigators, under interrogation, that he had tried to recruit fellow workers to help him in getting the sensitive information outside of the company.

“Tripp also made false claims to the media about the information he stole. For example, Tripp claimed that punctured battery cells had been used in certain Model 3 vehicles even though no punctured cells were ever used in vehicles, batteries or otherwise,” the complaint states. “Tripp also vastly exaggerated the true amount and value of ‘scrap’ material that Tesla generated during the manufacturing process, and falsely claimed that Tesla was delayed in bringing new manufacturing equipment online.”

It’s unclear which media outlets Tripp contacted in an alleged attempt to disrupt Tesla’s business.

Tesla says that it has suffered lost business and profits and damage to its reputation, but that it is too early to gauge the exact damage allegedly caused by Tripp.

The electric car maker wants the court to order the inspection of Tripp’s computers, as well as his USB and storage devices, email accounts, cloud-based accounts, and text and call history.

Tesla did not immediately respond Wednesday to an email request for comment. Tripp could not be reached for comment.

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