Nikola Founder Awaits Decisions On Federal Fraud Charges And SEC Lawsuit
By Terri Jo Neff |
Nikola Corp. founder and former chairman Trevor Milton is awaiting a decision in the next few weeks from a federal judge on whether fraud charges filed against Milton in July will be dismissed, or in the alternative, his trial held somewhere other than New York.
The company founded by Milton in 2014 has its corporate offices in Phoenix and its manufacturing plant in the town of Coolidge. Nikola has a combined workforce of nearly 650 focused on the development and production of electric-powered light duty and heavy duty trucks, but the number of jobs is expected to double in the next few years.
Milton, 39, is also expecting a decision in October about whether a parallel federal civil case filed against him by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission will be put on hold as requested by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Southern New York. The DOJ has expressed concern that having both cases running at the same time could prejudice the criminal prosecution.
In a statement released when Milton’s indictment was announced this summer, the company was looking forward.
“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,” according to the statement.
Milton resigned last year from all involvement with the company. The 49-page federal grand jury indictment was released by federal prosecutors just weeks after Nikola had a public stock offering which reportedly earned Milton hundreds of millions of dollars, if not even one billion, in stock value.
According to prosecutors, Milton is accused of telling myriad lies to investors, prospective investors, and the public from November 2019 and through September 2020 about Nikola’s research and development progress as well as sales contracts in an effort to increase the share price of the company he founded in 2014.
Milton pleaded not guilty to two counts of securities fraud and one count of wire fraud at his arraignment in New York. He is awaiting trial out of custody after posting a $100 million personal recognizance bond secured by real estate property in Morgan, Utah and in Coatsville, Utah.
Court records show Milton had to surrender any passports or travel visas, as well as any firearms as a condition of his pretrial release.
The securities fraud counts carry maximum penalties of 20 and 25 years in prison, respectively. The wire fraud count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
Anyone who believes they are a victim of Milton’s statements may contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office via USANYS.NIKOLAVICTIMS@USDOJ.GOV