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Nikola founder Trevor Milton sentenced to four years in prison

Trevor Milton, the disgraced founder of Nikola, was just sentenced to four years in prison on three counts of fraud.

In October 2022, a jury found Milton guilty of one count of securities fraud and two counts of wire fraud. Milton faced up to 60 years in prison. Prosecutors asked the judge for an 11-year prison sentence and a $5 million fine, according to The New York Times, while the defense argued for probation.

After announcing the sentence at a federal court hearing in New York City, U.S. District Judge Edgar Ramos spoke directly to Milton. “As difficult as it may be for you or your family to hear, I believe the jury got it right,” Ramos said, as transcribed Reuters.

Milton addressed the court before sentencing was handed down, saying “I did not intend to harm anyone and I did not commit those crimes levied against me.” He also spoke at length about his rural upbringing and recited biblical verse.

Prosecutors claimed that Milton pumped up the value of the company’s stock by lying to investors about “nearly all aspects” of Nikola’s business. Among other things, Milton claimed his company had a fully functional electric truck. The company released a video that made it appear as though a Nikola One prototype was able to move by itself. However, an indictment alleged that the truck was actually rolling down a hill and that Milton was involved in the video’s creation.

In addition, Milton was accused of lying about Nikola having billions of dollars worth of pre-order reservations and that it was producing hydrogen fuel at four times less than market rates. Prosecutors also said Milton falsely claimed Nikola had developed “game-changing” battery tech.

Nikola is still in business and it plans to resume deliveries of its battery electric truck in early 2024 following a recall over battery issues that cost around $61.8 million to resolve. In the nine months to September 30, Nikola produced 96 trucks and shipped 79.

The company’s stock price has dropped by 99 percent since 2020 and investors are said to have lost more than $660 million. Milton sold around $100 million of his Nikola stock in 2020 and spent most of that on luxury goods such as a plane and real estate, according to the Times. It’s likely that Milton will appeal this conviction, as he’s already asked Ramos for a new trial following the jury’s guilty verdict.

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