Last week Trevor Milton the founder of Nikola Motors was convicted of fraud and deception by a U.S. federal court.
The trial took place in New York, and after 5 hours of deliberation, the jury returned a guilty verdict on two counts of wire fraud and one count of securities fraud. Prosecutors revealed Milton engaged in an old-fashioned and intricate fraud. He was described by prosecutors as a “con man” who lied to investors to boost his personal wealth and that of his company’s share value.
Prosecutors asserted that Milton was obsessed with getting his name on Forbes’ top 100 billionaire list as some kind of validation. After his lies were exposed by an influential investment research firm, Milton’s own board testified against him during the trial. The jury heard that Milton used his ill-gotten gains to buy a private jet and luxury properties in Turks and Caicos.
The Jury also heard multiple examples of Milton making false statements in the media. The trial also revealed how Milton used a full-sized dummy Nikola Semi Truck during a corporate presentation. Milton detailed the truck’s electric propulsion system when none was fitted or even ready at the time.
One victim of Milton’s deception and fraud was a seller of a Utah ranch who accepted stock options as part of the sale based on Milton’s assertion about ascending value of Nikola Motors. Milton exited the company in 2020 and was indicted a year later. He was convicted of fraud and deception on October 14th after a 5 week trial.
Nikola shares ended last week at $3.06, significantly down from its debut price of $74,19 in June 2020. The Manhattan federal court has set Milton’s sentencing date for January 24, 2023.