NEW YORK -- Federal prosecutors successful Manhattan connected Thursday charged Trevor Milton, the billionaire laminitis of electrical motortruck shaper Nikola, with securities and ligament fraud.
Authorities had been investigating Milton and Nikola for much than a twelvemonth aft abbreviated seller Hindenburg Research called Nikola an "intricate fraud" successful a September report.
The institution subsequently conceded video of its electrical motortruck that gave a misleading content it was really drivable.
The institution besides said Milton had made inaccurate statements astir the exertion down the vehicle.
"Milton's strategy targeted individual, non-professional investors, alleged retail investors, by making mendacious and misleading statements," the indictment said.
Phoenix-based Nikola planned to physique battery- and hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered dense trucks for long-haul trucking, and the institution had been valued astatine much than $12 billion.
The doubts raised by abbreviated sellers and regulators person tanked the banal terms and scuttled a woody with General Motors to instrumentality a involvement successful the company.
Prosecutors said Milton lied astatine each crook astir the company's quality to nutrient its electrical truck.
According to the indictment, Milton made mendacious and misleading statements astir the company's occurrence successful creating a fully-functioning semi-truck prototype known arsenic Nikola One erstwhile helium knew that the prototype was inoperable.
He besides allegedly made mendacious statements astir an electric- and hydrogen-powered pickup motortruck known arsenic the Badger utilizing Nikola's parts and exertion erstwhile helium knew that was not true.
"As a result, immoderate of the retail investors that Milton's fraudulent strategy targeted suffered tens and adjacent hundreds of thousands of dollars successful losses, including, successful definite cases, the nonaccomplishment of their status savings oregon funds that they had borrowed to put successful Nikola," prosecutors said.
Milton resigned from Nikola successful September amid allegations of fraud. At the time, helium said helium would support himself against accusations that the institution made mendacious claims astir its vehicles, allegations Nikola rejects.
Milton "lied astir about each aspect" of Nikola's battery- and hydrogen-powered motortruck business, US Attorney Audrey Strauss said, singling retired the December 2016 instauration of Nikola One.
"The closest it ever came to driving was erstwhile a radical of Nikola engineers took it to the apical of a elevation and rolled it down truthful it could beryllium filmed for a commercial," Strauss said. "It was unfinished and untested and missing captious parts."
Strauss besides called retired statements Milton made connected societal media, television, and during podcast appearances arsenic helium sought to instrumentality Nikola nationalist betwixt 2019 and 2020.
"Retail investors were listening to Milton," she said. "His statements helped person them to bargain Nikola banal but what they heard him accidental was not true. Milton told lies to make fashionable request for Nikola stock."
Milton surrendered to authorities successful Manhattan Thursday morning.
For a time, Nikola was a banal marketplace darling adjacent though it ne'er really made anything. Milton's idiosyncratic holdings were worthy much than $7 billion.
"Today's transgression charges against Milton are wherever the rubber meets the road," Strauss said.
A spokesperson for Trevor Milton's ineligible squad issued the pursuing connection successful effect to the allegations:
"Trevor Milton is innocent; this is simply a caller debased successful the government's efforts to criminalize lawful concern conduct. Every enforcement successful America should beryllium horrified. Trevor Milton is an entrepreneur who had a semipermanent imaginativeness of helping the situation by cutting c emissions successful the trucking industry. Mr. Milton has been wrongfully accused pursuing a faulty and incomplete probe successful which the authorities ignored captious grounds and failed to interrogation important witnesses. From the beginning, this has been an probe successful hunt of a crime. Justice was not served by the government's enactment today, but it volition beryllium erstwhile Mr. Milton is exonerated."
Copyright © 2021 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.