Founder of electric vehicle company Nikola, Trevor Milton, was found guilty of fraud on Friday in a lawsuit charging that he misled investors about the technology behind the electric car startup. According to the New York Post, after approximately five hours of deliberation, the jury found Milton guilty of one count of securities fraud and two counts of wire fraud. Milton was cleared of a separate charge of securities fraud.
During the trial in federal court in Manhattan, prosecutors painted Milton, 40, as a “con man” who intended to mislead investors about the technology behind the electric and hydrogen-powered trucks beginning in November 2019. Milton’s lawyers said they plan to file papers challenging the verdict.
Milton, a native of Oakley, Utah, left the company in September 2020 after a report from short-seller Hindenburg Research referred to Nikola as a “fraud.” In July 2021, Milton was charged with making false and deceptive statements about Nikola’s vehicles and technology through social media, interviews for television, podcasts, and print media. The prosecution said Milton made false claims about Nikola, including that he created a “Nikola One” semi-truck that he knew would not function, manufactured batteries internally that he knew were being bought elsewhere and built an electric and hydrogen-powered “Badger” pickup vehicle from the “ground up.” Milton was also accused of defrauding the seller of a Utah ranch who received Nikola stock options as part of the purchase price based on Milton’s representations about the business.
The trial started on September 13, and the defense and the prosecution presented closing arguments to the jury on Thursday. The prosecution contended that Milton made false claims to boost his net worth and the firm’s stock price. However, the defense argued the prosecution misrepresented Milton’s statements regarding Nikola’s ambitions to upend the automobile sector. Milton’s sentencing is set for January 27.