Nikola founder Trevor Milton suffers new fraud charge

U.S. prosecutors have added a new wire fraud charge to their criminal case against CEO of Nikola Corp Trevor Milton.

Milton is being accused of defrauding investors by lying about the electric- and hydrogen-powered truck maker.

Milton tried to defraud the seller of Wasatch Creeks Ranch in Utah by making false and misleading statements about Nikola’s products and business prospects, per the new charge.

Milton previously pleaded not guilty to two counts of securities fraud and one count of wire fraud over statements he made from November 2019 to September 2020.

He faces a scheduled July 18 jury trial in Manhattan federal court.

In a civil complaint filed on March 14 in Utah’s federal court, the seller said the options’ value was “destroyed” as Milton’s alleged lies became known and Nikola’s stock price cratered.

The lawsuit seeks $45 million.

Milton’s criminal case is among the most prominent involving a company that went public after merging with a special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC.

Nikola went public in June 2020. Authorities have said Milton misled investors in social media posts, TV appearances and podcast interviews designed to drive up Nikola’s stock price and bolster his stature as an entrepreneur.

In December, Nikola agreed to pay $125 million to settle a related U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission civil fraud case.