Trevor Milton, the founder of Nikola Corp. and onetime executive chairman of the electric-truck startup, was indicted Thursday on securities-fraud charges for what prosecutors said was a scheme to mislead investors about the company’s product and technology development.
Mr. Milton faces two counts of securities fraud and one count of wire fraud, according to the indictment. The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan, which brought the charges, is set to make an announcement about the indictment on Thursday morning.
A spokesman for Mr. Milton didn’t immediately comment. Last year, Mr. Milton said on Twitter that he intended to defend himself against “false allegations.” He resigned from Nikola in September as concerns mounted about the startup darling that had attracted backing from some of the industry’s biggest names.
Nikola wasn’t charged. The company said that Mr. Milton hasn’t been involved in the company’s operations or communications since his resignation. “Nikola has cooperated with the government throughout the course of its inquiry,” the company’s statement said. “We remain committed to our previously announced milestones and timelines and are focused on delivering Nikola Tre battery-electric trucks later this year from the company’s manufacturing facilities.”
Prosecutors said that from November 2019 through September 2020, Mr. Milton engaged in a scheme to defraud individual, nonprofessional investors by making false statements through social media, television and podcast interviews. Some of the investors that bought the shares suffered hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses, prosecutors said.