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Summit County billionaire charged with fraud in 4,600-acre land deal

Trevor Milton 2021
Craig Ruttle/AP
FR61802 AP
Nikola founder Trevor Milton leaves a federal courthouse in New York Thursday, July 29, 2021, after being charged with three counts of criminal fraud for allegedly lying to bolster stock sales of the electric vehicle start-up.

Billionaire and Summit County resident Trevor Milton was charged with fraud this week stemming from a 2020 land deal in Morgan County.

The lawsuit was filed in Utah Federal Court on March 14th and alleges Oakley resident Trevor Milton, who is the founder and ex-CEO of electric vehicle startup Nikola, committed securities fraud when he used his company’s stock to help pay for over 4,600 acres of land in Morgan County known as the Wasatch Creeks Ranch in 2020.

The plaintiff, Massachusetts real estate developer and investor Peter Hicks, is seeking $45 million in damages. Hicks alleges Milton offered him a combination of cash and over 500,000 shares of Nikola stock to purchase the land and made several false statements about the company during negotiations for the deal.

At the time the deal was finalized in August 2020, the lawsuit says the stock option was valued at $15 million, but cratered soon after the deal was closed.

A financial report published that September alleged Milton misled investors and made various false claims about Nikola and its products. Milton later resigned as chairman and CEO of Nikola and was indicted on fraud charges in New York relating to those allegations last July. According to the lawsuit, Milton used the Wasatch Creeks Ranch property as part of his $100 million bond posting to avoid jail time.

Nikola stock has fallen from a high of over $65 dollars a share in June 2020 and is now valued at under $10 a share.

A trial date for Milton’s first fraud case is scheduled for this July.