• Tesla on Friday filed a complaint accusing an engineer of stealing trade secrets. 
  • Tesla said engineer Alex Khatilov was hired on December 28 and began transferring files within days.
  • Alex Khatilov denies the accusations, according to reports. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Tesla in a Friday court filing said a software engineer transferred about 26,000 confidential documents, including trade secrets, to his personal Dropbox during his first week at the company. 

Senior software quality assurance engineer Alex Khaitov started his job at Tesla on December 28, 2020, and almost immediately began downloading sensitive files, according to Tesla. 

“Within three days of being hired by Tesla, Defendant brazenly stole thousands of trade secret computer scripts that took Tesla years to develop,” Tesla said in a complaint filed on Friday in the San Jose Division of the US district court of the Northern District of California. 

Read more: ‘Vastly technically disconnected’: A market strategist breaks down the 3 indicators that show Tesla is overpriced – and what to look for that could signal a crash resembling Cisco’s in 2000

Tesla is suing Khaitov, accusing him of stealing trade secrets and confidential information, along with breaching his contract. Khatilov was fired when internal investigators discovered the file transfers, according to Tesla. 

Alex Khatilov denies the accusations, according to a MailOnline report

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Tesla Model Y. Tesla

Khatilov became the latest person in Silicon Valley to be accused of stealing Te lsa trade secret thefts. Former Tesla employees working at Zoox were sued in 2019.

In March 2020, Tesla sued a competitor, Rivian, saying its employees also stole trade secrets. And Martin Tripp, a former Tesla process technician, was set to pay the company $400,000 for sharing trade secrets, according to a December court filing. 

Only about 40 people on Khatilov’s team of quality assurance engineers had access to the trade secrets he’s accused of stealing, according to Tesla. Within that group, only 8 engineers could grant access to the files, the company said.

The company said it detected Khatilov’s downloads on January 6.

Khatilov gave company investigators access to his Dropbox, saying he’d only transferred “a couple personal administrative documents,” according to Tesla. 

Tesla said its investigators viewed his Dropbox account. They discovered his “claims were outright lies,” saying he’d transferred “thousands and thousands” of Tesla’s computer scripts to his personal Dropbox. 

Tesla said: “Then, he lied about it and tried to delete the evidence of his theft when quickly confronted by Tesla’s security team, forcing Tesla to bring this complaint.”

The company said Khatilov told company investigators he “forgot” about the files, adding that was “almost certainly another lie.”

On Friday, Khatilov spoke to The New York Post, saying, “I’ve been working for, like, 20 years in this industry, and I know what sensitive documents are about, and I never, ever tried to access any of those, or steal it.”

The Post said Khatilov learned of the lawsuit from its reporter. An interview request sent by Insider to Khatilov’s personal email address was not immediately returned on Saturday. 

In its filing, Tesla said it instructed Khatilov to delete the files it could see in his Dropbox account. But the company couldn’t be sure that the engineer hadn’t already transferred them someplace else. 

Tesla said: “Indeed, as soon as Defendant uploaded the stolen files to his Dropbox account, he could have shared or retransferred those files to anyone or any other storage media (whether an external thumb drive, another computer, a mobile device, or another cloud-based storage system). And Tesla would have had no way to know that.”

The company said investigators had to interview Khatilov remotely because of COVID-19, meaning they weren’t able to “ensure complete deletion” from his devices. 

The company is seeking a jury trial and damages. 

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