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Nikola founder, to face securities-fraud trial

Trevor Milton, the Nikola Corp. founder who enticed auto-industry leaders and investors with his promise for a revolution in electric trucks, faces a securities-fraud trial

That will commence this week on allegations that he lied about his company’s development of environmentally friendly technology.

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Prosecutors accuse Trevor Milton of lying to investors about the startup’s technology!

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan last year accused Mr. Milton of running a scheme to enrich himself and boost his stature as an entrepreneur by falsely hyping Nikola’s prospects and duping nonprofessional investors, including stock-market novices.

  • He was indicted on two counts of wire fraud and two counts of securities fraud.
  • Jury selection begins Monday.

Mr. Milton,

Pleaded not guilty and resigned from Nikola in 2020, several days after short seller Hindenburg Research released a report alleging dozens of misrepresentations that Mr. Milton had made about the business, including rolling an undrivable truck down a hill to make it appear functional in a marketing video.

During a pretrial hearing last week, lawyers for Mr. Milton said they would argue their client acted in good faith and didn’t intend to defraud anyone. Mr. Milton might have used certain terms like “prototype,” “functional,” and “show car” differently than some investors understood them, defense lawyer Marc Mukasey said.

The top charge against Mr. Milton carries a maximum sentence of 25 years, though under federal sentencing guidelines he would likely face a much shorter prison term even if convicted on all charges.

Amid the fallout from Mr. Milton’s legal troubles,

Nikola continues to attract partners, customers and established executives who are betting on the company’s plan for a network of long-haul trucks powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

The company began production of its first truck model, powered solely by batteries, in April.

The hydrogen-powered Nikola Two semi-truck, which Nikola says will go on sale in 2024.