Trevor Milton was indicted on three counts of fraud by a federal grand jury.
Last year, Electronic vehicle manufacturing startup Nikola launched its IPO after five years of private business. This IPO seemed to be very promising, rising steadily in value. However, in September, a report from short-seller Hindenburg Research revealed that the company, specifically its founder Trevor Milton, had made numerous false statements about their products in order to rope in unsuspecting investors. The report called the company an “intricate fraud built on dozens of lies,” landing Milton in the hot seat.
Milton resigned as the company’s chairman after the report, but remained under investigation to determine the precise scope of his falsifications. After many months of investigation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan formally slapped Milton with two counts of securities fraud and one count of wire fraud. Milton has been indicted on all three of these charges by a federal grand jury as of today.
“Milton’s scheme targeted individual, non-professional investors — so-called retail investors — by making false and misleading statements directly to the investing public through social media, and television, print and podcast interviews,” prosecutors said in the 49-page indictment.
The prosecutors added that Milton “was motivated to engage in the fraudulent scheme in order to enrich himself and elevate his stature as an entrepreneur.”
Milton has already surrendered to authorities, and is slated to appear in court in New York later today. Prior to official sentencing, the jury has ruled that Milton will be stripped of all property “traceable to the commission of said offenses,” which includes the large profits he turned from Nikola’s IPO.
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As for Nikola as a whole, they’ve been trying to distance themselves from Milton, stressing that the charges are only against him rather than the company as a whole, and that they’ve “cooperated with the government throughout the course of its inquiry.”
“We remain committed to our previously announced milestones and timelines and are focused on delivering Nikola Tre battery-electric trucks later this year from the company’s manufacturing facilities,” the company said.