New York, July 29, 2021: Trevor Milton, the billionaire founder and former chief executive of Nikola Corp, was criminally charged on Thursday with defrauding investors by lying to them about the electric- and hydrogen-powered truck maker.
Milton, 39, pleaded not guilty at a hearing in Manhattan federal court to two counts of securities fraud and one count of wire fraud over statements he made from November 2019 to September 2020 about Nikola’s products and technology.
Authorities said Milton relied on a public relations blitz of social media posts as well as TV and podcast interviews to drive up Nikola’s stock price, become one of the world’s 100 richest people and “elevate” his stature as an entrepreneur.
“Milton lied about nearly every aspect of the business,” U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss in Manhattan said at a news conference. “Today’s criminal charges against Milton are where the rubber meets the road.”
Bail for Milton was set at $100 million, partially secured by two homes that the Oakley, Utah, resident owns.
Each criminal count carries a maximum prison term of 20 or 25 years. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed related civil charges.
“Trevor is innocent,” Milton’s lawyer Marc Mukasey said in an email. “There was no fraud. We’re ready to fight this case.”
Nikola was not charged. It said in a statement it cooperated with the government and is focused on delivering Tre battery-electric trucks this year.
Disclaimer: This article was originally published by Reuters.