Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk took down one of his workers who blew the whistle on internal wrongdoing in a paranoid effort to squelch his “extensive and damaging sabotage,” Bloomberg Businessweek reports. The worker in question was Martin Tripp, who worked on the assembly line at Tesla’s Gigafactory battery plant in the Nevada desert and had tipped off a Business Insider reporter about inefficiencies that cost the company an estimated $150 million. Musk hired a private investigative team to find the source. When they found Tripp, Musk worried that he had also shared the data with “unknown third parties,” such as oil companies and rival automakers. Tesla then sued Tripp for $167 million. Later that same day, Tripp was told by a local sheriff’s department that they’d received a tip that he was planning a mass shooting at the factory. According to a security manager at the company, the investigators hacked into Tripp’s phone, had him followed, and misled police about the surveillance. Tesla has denied the allegations.
The Tripp incident came at the beginning of Musk’s social-media meltdown that caused the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission to appoint a so-called “Twitter sitter” to vet Musk’s tweets. The factory security manager says that Tripp didn’t sabotage Tesla, and that Musk only sought to damage his reputation by spreading misinformation.