EV Company Founder Sentenced to 4 Years Due to Fraudulent Claims: “My Intent Was Not to Harm Others”

By: Ben Campbell | Published: Dec 22, 2023

The billionaire founder of the American electric vehicle company, Nikola, has been sentenced to four years in prison after being convicted of several crimes.

Trevor Milton was found guilty of preying on vulnerable retail investors who tried to earn extra money by trading during the height of the pandemic. Some of the unfortunate victims lost all of their retirement savings.

Billionaire Founder of Nikola

Trevor Milton founded Nikola, an electric truck company manufacturer, after several other failed businesses in the industry. From 2016 to 2020, the company produced multiple vehicle concepts and eventually went public.

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Milton gives a speech in front of one of Nikola’s Electric semi-trucks

Source: @Benzinga/X

The company placed a particular focus on natural gas-fueled turbine-electric semi-trucks. By 2022, the company projected deliveries of between 300 and 500 of its semi trucks known as the Nikola Tre. But, during this time, the company was under fire due to various allegations of fraud.

Trevor Milton Taken to Court

Last week, Milton appeared in court after charges were brought against him claiming he preyed on potential investors.

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Trevor Milton, dressed in a blue suit as he makes his way to court

Source: @mtglover_89/X

Unfortunately, many of the investors lost their life savings. According to the authorities, this factor outlines his web of false promotes related to the semi trucks that were never operable.

Milton Assures Judge He’s “Honest”

In court last Monday, Trevor tried to portray himself as an honest and generous yet unsophisticated businessman.

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Milton is pictured wearing a mask and a grey suit before he enters the court

Source: @gurgavin/X

He spoke about his humble beginnings in life, milking cows, and how his lack of a college degree may have led to the misunderstanding. Nonetheless, Milton claims he never tried to defraud investors with the electric truck company.

EV Founder Pleads for Mercy

The judge allowed Trevor to speak for several minutes as the accused tried everything he could to plead his innocence.

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Judge speaks from the courtroom desk just before slamming down her gavel

Source: Freepik

“My intent was not to harm others,” Milton told Judge Edgardo Ramos. “Let me have probation.”

Nikola Targeted Non-Professional Investors

Neither the judge, nor those who brought forth the indictment, were as convinced of his innocence.

Man gives a presentation to potential investors in a small conference room

Source: Freepik

“Milton’s scheme targeted individual, non-professional investors — so-called retail investors — by making false and misleading statements,” the indictment said.

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Judge Refuses to Grant Milton Any Favors

Judge Ramos did not comply with Milton’s request, instead issuing the billionaire with a four-year prison sentence and a $1 million fine.

Judge uses his gavel to finalize a sentencing inside the courtroom

Source: Freepik

According to reports, Milton was also forced to forfeit a ranch he had purchased with ill-gotten gains and pay restitution to victims.

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Convicted of Wire and Securities Fraud

The billionaire was convicted of security and wire fraud after prosecutors claimed he exaggerated the potential success of the company.

Man hangs his head inside jail cell after being sentenced to serve an extended period of time

Source: Freepik

Milton used this embellishment of the company’s success to deceive retail investors, who claim to have lost upwards of $660 million combined.

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The EVs Didn’t Even Work

Investigations into Nikola’s EVs found that one model, the Badger, lacked certain parts, including airbags and an operable HVAC.

Milton gives a speech in front of one of Nikola’s electric semi-trucks

Source: @headingcast/X

On top of this, said prosecutors, many of the interior lights were not operable and were simply backlit.

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Sustained Scheme to Make Money

Prosecutors deemed Milton’s business practices a “sustained scheme to take advantage of individual, non-professional investors” in order to inflate Nikola’s stock price and enrich himself.

Nikola semi-truck proto-type finished with sleek grey paint and black trim

Source: @rimalp/Reddit

“Milton over and over again exaggerated or outright lied about Nikola’s success in a way that misled investors about the risks and likely returns of their investments,” prosecutors said.

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EV Founder Pleads Not Guilty

Back in 2021, when charges were first brought against him, Milton pleaded not guilty after being taken into custody and released on a $100 million bond.

Milton is pictured wearing a blue suit and light blue ties as he walks down a street in a city

Source: @evanderburg/X

A spokesperson from his legal team claimed the EV founder was innocent, calling the situation “a new low in the government’s efforts to criminalize lawful business conduct.”

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Milton Legal Team Hit Back at Indictment

In a lengthy statement released by Trevor’s legal advisors, they said, Mr. Milton has been wrongfully accused following a faulty and incomplete investigation in which the government ignored critical evidence and failed to interview important witnesses.”

Lawyer takes a stand in court and gives a speech to defend his client

Source: Freepik

“From the beginning, this has been an investigation in search of a crime. Justice was not served by the government’s action today, but it will be when Mr. Milton is exonerated.”

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