Nikola founder charged with lying to investors

The founder and former CEO of Nikola - the onetime high-flying electric truck maker - was taken into custody in New York on Thursday, after he was criminally charged with defrauding investors for lying about his company's products.

U.S. ATTORNEY AUDREY STRAUSS: "Milton brazenly and repeatedly made false and misleading claims about the status of Nikola's technology... Milton tweeted a video where the truck appeared to be driving. But, actually, it was brought to the top of a hill and just allowed to roll down."

Trevor Milton was charged with two counts of securities fraud and one count of wire fraud.

At a news conference in Manhattan, U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said Milton misled investors in order to "elevate" his stature as an entrepreneur, become one of the world's 100 richest people, and drive up Nikola's stock price.

STRAUSS: "Retail investors were listening to Milton. His statements helped convince them to buy Nikola's stock. But what they heard him say was not true."

Milton, who is still worth $1.2 billion according to Forbes magazine, stepped down as executive chairman last September, two weeks after a short-seller labeled the company a "fraud" and said it had made misleading statements about its technology.

At the height of Nikola's buzz, the 39 year old struck a deal with General Motors, which just a short time later pulled out of its agreement with Milton to take an 11% equity stake in his company.

Nikola, which was not charged, said in a statement that it has cooperated with the government and is focused on delivering battery-electric trucks this year.

Nikola shares plunged as much as 11% on Thursday. The stock has lost nearly two-thirds of its value over the past 12 months.

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