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SOUTH SALT LAKE — Four people were arrested Friday after being found in possession of four vehicles believed to be stolen from a Tesla dealership, police said.
William Weist, 31, Shane Smith, 24, Zachary Hallman, 19, and Earlene Parker, 27, were all arrested in connection to an apparent burglary and theft of the vehicles at a Tesla dealership located at 2312 S. State, according to South Salt Lake police detective Gary Keller.
“One guy claimed a family member had died and left them all this stuff, but two of them actually said (it was given to them) by (a man named) Tesla,” Keller said.
Each vehicle, Keller said, was worth about $80,000.
The bizarre chain of events began around 1 a.m. when a Utah Highway Patrol trooper conducting a traffic stop near the Tesla dealership noticed a Tesla passenger car stop behind the trooper’s squad car.
The trooper, believing the man driving the car wasn’t the owner of the vehicle, called for another officer while he conducted his traffic stop and a South Salt Lake police officer arrived at the scene to investigate, Keller said.
Keller said the man, identified as Smith, had a bag of keys and told police he had come to return the vehicle.
“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 said.
The incident caused police to begin investigating a possible burglary at the dealership. As officers were investigating, they spotted a second Tesla drive by the building, Keller said. Another UHP trooper pulled the vehicle over several blocks away, after the vehicle ran out of battery power, and arrested Weist.
Smith told police “a guy he hardly knew gave him a free Tesla along with three other keys to other Teslas,” according to a jail report. In addition, he said the man gave him keys to the building.
Smith added that he was at the dealership when the building alarm sounded for about 20 to 30 minutes and saw the building being ransacked, the report stated. The report added that Smith then took the keys to the vehicle and had a business license to the dealership, a certificate of commerce, and a $49,500 check written to Tesla in his possession.
Weist identified himself as "Carlos Romero" and officers found a financial transaction card with that name in his pocket, according to a jail report. Police then called Tesla and were able to identify multiple stolen items from the business in his possession, the report said.
Police were able to positively identify the man at Weist through fingerprints.
Two other vehicles were recovered later in the morning. One of the vehicles was pulled over by West Valley City police, and another spotted outside a liquor store in Salt Lake City, according to Keller.
Hallman and Parker, the drivers of those vehicles, each told police a man named “Tesla” gave them the vehicles they were driving.
Hallman told police he had entered the dealership with two other men and had taken the vehicle, according to the report. A jail report was unavailable for Parker.
Keller said he believes police have recovered all of the vehicles stolen from the dealership, but added there could be more. In the meantime, he said investigators are unsure how one or more individuals were able to get into the building and take the vehicles.
“Somehow the doors were not pried or broken open,” he said. “We believe they went into the building with keys or possibly the doors were open. We don’t know at this time.”
Police were also trying to figure out how all four individuals were connected Friday, Keller said.
“It’s one of those cases where you’re going, ‘What?’ and you’re scratching your head," he said. "The good thing is we have four people in custody and hopefully all the property returned.”