Wyoming Man Gets Prison, $1M Fine For Lying About Hydrogen Powered Vehicles

An Alpine, Wyoming, man will spend four years in prison and pay $1 million for lying to investors about developing a “really incredible” and “fully functioning” hydrogen-powered semitruck, among other products.

Clair McFarland

December 21, 20232 min read

Trevor Milton of Alpine, Wyoming, was sentenced to four years in prison and $1 million in fines for defrauding investors.
Trevor Milton of Alpine, Wyoming, was sentenced to four years in prison and $1 million in fines for defrauding investors. (Victor J. Blue photo/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Found guilty of lying about developing a “fully functioning” and “really incredible” hydrogen-powered semitruck to get investors’ money, an Alpine, Wyoming, man will spend four years in prison.  

U.S. District Court Judge Edgardo Ramos of the Southern District of New York sentenced Trevor Milton, 41, on Monday to four years of prison and a $1 million fine for securities and wire fraud, after a jury convicted Milton.

“Trevor Milton lied to investors again and again — on social media, on television, on podcasts, and in print,” said U.S. Attorney Deputy Damian Williams in a Monday statement. “But today’s sentence should be a warning to start-up founders and corporate executives everywhere — ‘fake it till you make it’ is not an excuse for fraud, and if you mislead your investors, you will pay a stiff price.” 

Milton’s indictment says that from about November 2019 through September 2020, he tricked investors into buying shares of Nikola Corp., an electric- and hydrogen-powered vehicle startup he founded.  

The One, The Badger 

Nikola also unveiled products at least as early as 2016 and was touting a purportedly self-driving hydrogen-powered semitruck on Twitter in 2018, the statement says.  

He advertised on social media, TV and print, and gave podcast interviews, says the document.  

Milton claimed to have a “fully functioning” hydrogen-powered semitruck prototype, but he knew the prototype was inoperable, says the statement. He also claimed that Nikola had built an electric- and hydrogen-powered pickup, “the Badger,” from Nikola’s own parts and technology, and that Nikola was producing inexpensive hydrogen, “when Milton knew that was not true,” the statement adds.  

The statement says he also made “false and misleading claims” that he’d received billions of dollars’ worth of binding orders.  

Let It Roll 

Then in January 2018, Milton posted a Twitter video to his own account of the Nikola One – which was not actually operational, driving “on its own,” says the statement. 

But it was a trick: the statement says someone towed the Nikola One to the top of a hill, then released its brakes and let it roll to create that video.  

Clair McFarland can be reached at clair@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter