The new fraud charges relate to Milton’s purchase of the Wasatch Valley Ranch from a Massachusetts man. The man said he accepted Nikola stock options as part of the purchase price, based on Milton’s description of the company.
In a civil lawsuit filed March 14 in Utah federal court, the seller said the value of his Nikola stock options plummeted as Milton’s lies became known and Nikola’s stock price plummeted. The lawsuit seeks $45 million in damages from Milton.
Image credit: Nikola
Milton pleaded not guilty to two counts of securities fraud and one count of wire fraud between November 2019 and September 2020. His attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Milton’s criminal case is one of the most high-profile cases involving a merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). Critics argue that backdoor listings are prone to conflicts of interest and poor due diligence.
Nikola went public in June 2020. Regulators said Milton was on social media,televisionThe interviews and podcast interviews misled investors, aimed at driving up Nikola’s stock price and boosting his status as an entrepreneur.
In December, Nikola agreed to pay $125 million to settle related civil fraud charges brought against it by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Nikola has neither admitted nor denied the SEC’s allegations, and the SEC has also filed a civil fraud indictment against Milton.
On June 20, Milton asked a judge to block evidence about his wealth, lifestyle and spending habits in his criminal case, saying the move would trigger unfair prejudice.