Tesla Motors was targeted by a former employee who attempted to harm the car maker’s credibility and reputation by leaking the contents of his old boss’s email account, authorities claim.
The FBI announced Thursday that it had arrested 28-year-old Nima Kalbasi of Canada and charged the ex-Tesla mechanical engineer with three counts of computer hacking.
Mr. Kalbasi was fired Dec. 3 from Tesla, but failed to fully sever ties, authorities said. Instead, he begin accessing his former boss’s corporate email, downloading employee evaluations and other confidential information over the next month.
Mr. Kalbasi “was not authorized to access the Tesla email server for any reason” after he was fired, the FBI said. According to a grand jury in the Northern District of California, however, he logged on to his former boss’s email account 297 times between Dec. 16 and Jan. 13, using credentials that weren’t his.
Authorities said Mr. Kalbasi stole employee reviews that he then shared with former coworkers. The indictment also charges him with taking a customer complaint and publishing it online, where he “made disparaging comments concerning the alleged quality issues that he then and there well knew to be false and misleading, all the while intending to harm Tesla’s reputation and credibility.”
The FBI said on Thursday that Mr. Kalbasi was apprehended Aug. 24 in Vermont while crossing into the U.S. from Canada. Docket entries in the federal hacking case against against him indicate that he was charged with two felonies and a misdemeanor on July 9, but the indictment was not unsealed until Aug. 27 when he appeared before a judge in San Jose.
Mr. Kalbasi faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison for the felony charges and one year in prison for the misdemeanor, the FBI said.
Downstate, meanwhile, former Tribune Co. employee Matthew Keys is scheduled to stand trial later this month for similar charges. The Justice Department accuses Mr. Keys of helping hackers breach the Los Angeles Times’ website after he was fired from the newspaper conglomerate.