Former Nikola Motors CEO and founder Trevor Milton was found guilty in federal court today of three of four counts of wire fraud. Milton was charged with two counts of securities fraud and two counts of wire fraud related to statements he made while serving as chairman and CEO Nikola.

Although the Nikola Corporation, fka Nikola Motor Company, has nothing to do with it news of today’s condemnationhe should be mentioned because of the key role he played in the Trevor Milton saga that led to his convictions.

Before going public, the original iteration of Milton-founded startup ZEV came out with a bang, promising several Class 8 semi-trucks powered by hydrogen. to contend with the likes of Tesla. The company also unveiled a hydrogen-electric pickup called the Badger, which will be produced with help from GM.

Things really started to get “interesting” when Milton became a billionaire by taking Nicola public through a SPAC merger, after several bold claims about the company’s tremendous progress, sending its stock up to $90 per share.

However, Nikola’s money rocket was quickly shut down after a report by the famous short-seller Hindenburg Research made several accusations that exposed Nicola and Milton’s deception. It included several claims confirmed in previous reports by both Electrician and Bloomberg. Nikola issued a response to these claims, but a statement there was no rebuttal to the underlying allegations of fraud company and Milton.

The key point of deception in the report was the serious claim that Nikola’s company made the first video of him driving a hydrogen truck by simply rolling it down a mountain. The company eventually admitted to the ruse, albeit unapologetically, saying the deception was “fair game” due to technicalities.

As a result, Milton left campaign shortly thereafter as public pressure began to mount. The US Department of Justice, as well as the SEC, soon launched separate investigations into Milton’s actions (or lack thereof), and he was inevitably indicted by a grand jury over the above false statements.

As of today, Milton has been held on $100 million bail. Nikola Corporation, on the other hand, worked with the SEC to move from Milton, paying a $125 million settlement and a refocus on actually delivering electric cars, a feat that Trevor Milton never accomplished during his sprint to the coast.

Milton still owns shares in Nikola, but that’s the only link that currently exists between him and the current version of the automaker, which is still in the works pull your reputation out of the hole his former CEO took a dig at it. Milton faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted on all four counts of wire fraud. Now that he’s been found guilty on three counts, we’ll have to see what the sentence will be.

Electrek’s Take

Oil may no longer be needed in electric vehicles, but the industry still has snake oil. Milton’s indictment should come as no surprise to anyone, as much of the evidence against him was public and plentiful – one of the downsides of publicly inflating your company for profit. The stock is only down 3% in the secondary market today, again suggesting that many saw this coming.

But what we may not see is the next Trevor Milton, and you can bet the man is out there somewhere. We promote many young and upcoming startups on Electrician in favor of EV adoption, and the cold truth is that many won’t.

Funding and scale are usually lethal weapons, but there are plenty of bad actors out there looking to cash in on EV-enthusiastic investors who want to invest in a company that “will be the next Tesla.” How many times have we heard that statement, right?

We still think charlatans like Milton are the exception, not the rule, but it’s important that he be caught and held accountable because there are other CEOs or EV startups waiting for an opportunity to hype their EV technology and make quick money from it. Let’s hope these crooks see Milton in orange and think twice.

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