The founder and former CEO of Nikola Trevor Milton has been found guilty of securities and wire fraud on Friday. The charges were related to comments he made during his time at the helm of the company which helped increase the stock price, at the same time helping him become a billionaire virtually overnight.
Milton was found guilty on one of two counts of securities fraud and on both counts of wire fraud. Sentencing will happen at a later date, but if he had been found guilty on all four counts he could have faced up to 25 years in prison, according to CNBC.
In July 2021 the US Attorney’s Office indicted the 39-year old Milton on two counts of securities fraud and one count of wire fraud. An additional count of wire fraud was later added in relation to Milton using shares of the company he was pumping to purchase a 4,678 acre ranch in Colorado, thereby defrauding the for former owner.
Milton had tried unsuccessfully to have two counts of his indictment thrown out, arguing that fair notice has not been given and that prosecutors had failed to show how his comments influenced purchases or sales of Nikola stock.
That was only after he had unsuccessfully attempted to have the whole case thrown out for lack of proper jurisdiction.
During the trial, prosecutors had argued that Milton lied about “nearly all aspects of the business” in order to increase the price of Nikola stock. His efforts worked, with the price of the stock increasing to as high as $90 per share, making Milton a multi-billionaire.
The highs were short lived as short-seller Hindenburg Research published their scathing report on Milton and Nikola a few months later, a report which sent share prices tumbling.