A federal grand jury has indicted Nikola Motor founder and former CEO Trevor Milton on three counts of criminal fraud for allegedly lying about “nearly all aspects” of Nikola’s business.” The indictment was unsealed on Thursday.
Milton, whose ambitious vision of a zero-emissions, hydrogen-powered trucking revolution caught the interest and admiration of many — including Tesla skeptics and short-sellers — was accused by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of two counts of securities fraud, including making false statements about the company, and wire fraud. As noted in a CNBC report, prosecutors focused on how Milton allegedly lied about Nikola’s products, the company’s technology, and its future sales.
“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 stated, adding that the former Nikola executive was “motivated to engage in the fraudulent scheme in order to enrich himself and elevate his stature as an entrepreneur.”
Milton has reportedly surrendered to authorities, and he is expected to be presented in a New York court later today, as per information related by U.S. Attorney’s office spokesperson Nicholas Biase.
According to the grand jury, Milton shall forfeit all properties that are traceable to the commission of his offenses. These would likely include the over $1 billion Milton acquired after Nikola Motor went public last year. Milton’s spokesperson has so far declined to comment on the indictment, though Nikola has stated that it has “cooperated with the government throughout the course of its inquiry.”
The hydrogen trucking company, which is looking to launch a battery-electric truck later this year, highlighted that the grand jury’s indictments are against Trevor Milton, not against Nikola Motor itself. It should be noted that back in February, Nikola noted that its internal investigations revealed that Milton issued a number of inaccurate statements from 2016 all the way to the company’s IPO last year.
“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,” Nikola noted.