Nikola founder Trevor Milton could face 11 years in prison for fraud

Miljøstiftelsen ZERO, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

U.S. prosecutors have suggested as many as 11 years in prison for Nikola founder Trevor Milton, after the former CEO was convicted of defrauding investors last year.

Milton was found guilty of two counts of wire fraud and one count of securities fraud last October, following a 2020 incident in which a video of the Nikola One electric semi was shown to be driving to investors, though it was later discovered that the vehicle hadn’t been self-propelled. He was also ordered to pay $165 million in damages to Nikola just a couple of months ago.

On Tuesday, prosecutors asked U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos to offer a “substantial sentence” to Milton, echoing the recommendation of an 11-year sentence from the probation department, according to a report from Reuters. They also said that Milton’s false claims to investors began as early as 2019, well before Nikola’s market cap surpassed $30 billion in June 2020.

The prosecution compared Milton to Elizabeth Holmes, founder of the blood testing startup Theranos, noting that she had been sentenced to over 11 years in prison for defrauding investors.

“Just as Holmes lied about Theranos-manufactured blood analyzers, Milton lied about the operability of the Nikola One semitruck,” prosecutors said.

Milton denied comparisons to Holmes, calling Nikola a “real company with real products,” while he argued that Theranos was not. He has also requested probation, adding that the statements simply derived from his “deeply-held optimism” in the truck maker.

Prosecutors also went on to say that Milton used a combination of news interviews and social media to propagate misleading claims, including those related to the Nikola One and other claims in which he said that the electric and hydrogen Badger pickup had been built from the “ground up.”

Milton is scheduled to face sentencing on December 18, following a hearing in which investors will be allowed to comment on their losses from the fraudulent claims.

A Timeline of Nikola’s Trevor Milton: From Fictional to Fraudulent

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Nikola founder Trevor Milton could face 11 years in prison for fraud
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