Nikola founder Trevor Milton has pleaded not guilty to fraud charges following his arrest last week.
Milton was charged by a federal grand jury with three counts of fraud on July 29th after he allegedly lied about “nearly all aspects,” of Nikola’s business. The embattled entrepreneur was released on a $100 million bond Thursday, which was secured against two Utah properties valued at $40 million, according to MSNBC.
Milton founded the Phoenix-based electric truck startup in 2014, which rose to prominence after Milton debuted a number of electric truck prototypes between 2016 and 2020. A short seller report, which was published by Hindenberg Research last summer after General Motors entered a tech sharing partnership with Nikola, then accused the company of being an “intricate fraud built on dozens of lies,” prompting the SEC to investigate the company’s practices.
In a statement released Thursday, Milton’s legal team aggressively defended the Utah native, calling the indictment a “new low in the government’s efforts to criminalize lawful business conduct.”
“Trevor Milton is an entrepreneur who had a long-term vision of helping the environment by cutting carbon emissions in the trucking industry,” the statement claims. “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.”
“From the beginning, this has been an investigation in search of a crime,” it continued. “Justice was not served by the government’s action today, but it will be when Mr. Milton is exonerated.”
In addition to the federal charges, the SEC also filed civil securities fraud charges against Milton this week, MSNBC reports, and has asked the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to ban him from acting as an officer at a company capable of issuing securities.