Town & County

Nikola founder Trevor Milton charged with fraud in Morgan County land deal

SUMMIT COUNTY, Utah — A lawsuit filed this week in Utah Federal Court alleges that Oakley resident and ex-CEO of electric vehicle startup Nikola, Trevor Milton, committed securities fraud when used company stock to help purchase 4,600 acres of land in the Wasatch Creeks Ranch in Morgan County in 2020.

Investor and Massachusetts real estate developer Peter Hicks is seeking $45 million in damages.

The lawsuit says that Milton offered Hicks an option to buy over 515,000 shares of Nikola stock at $16.50 per share.

Hicks claims that Milton said the company had “billions and billions of committed orders” and that their trucks would be in market come 2021.

While Nikola’s stock (NKLA) would go on to peak at over $67 per share in June of 2020, it closed Friday trading on Wall Street at $8.87 per share.

Nikola, which was founded in Summit County in 2014, produces electric and hydrogen-powered semi-trucks. The company has since relocated to Phoenix.

Note: video is from Oct. 2020.

Milton stepped down as the company’s executive chairman in September 2020 after a Hindenburg Research report alleged that he misled investors and made false claims about the firm.

A week before he stepped down, Milton sent the following in an email to Hicks:

I can’t do anything as of now due to the fact we are in communication with the SEC. While I can’t go into detail, I can tell you we have not done anything wrong, it was a coordinated attack to discredit us. Much like Telsa, this is a fact of life where people target you and try to hurt you. They made a reported 51 million USD on the first attack and unknown amount in the whole process. They do it for the money, not truth.

On July 29 last year, the U.S. Attorney’s Office fo the Southern District of New York indicted Milton on two counts of securities fraud and one count of wire fraud.

After he was arrested, he posted a $100 million bond by putting up two pieces of property in Utah, including the ranch in Morgan County. The case is set to go to trial in July.

Regarding the Hicks’ lawsuit, a spokeswoman for Milton told KSL: “This is a frivolous lawsuit with no merit, which we intend to demonstrate through our response.”

CNBC: Nikola wants to increase shares by 200 million as it ramps up electric truck production

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