Trevor Milton, founder of Nikola Corp., is leaving federal court in New York, USA on Thursday, July 29, 2021.

Angus Mordant | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Nikola founder Trevor Milton pleaded not guilty to fraud allegations in a Manhattan courtroom Thursday afternoon after federal prosecutors accused him of misleading investors about the electric vehicle startup’s capabilities and technologies.

Miton, who stepped down as chairman in September, was released with a $ 100 million bond secured against two of his $ 40 million properties in Utah. He is prohibited from contacting investors and the court has received travel restrictions. It was his first big gig since leaving the company and deleting his social media accounts.

A state grand jury accused Milton of triple criminal fraud for lying about “almost every aspect of the business” to encourage the electric vehicle startup’s stock sales, an indictment unsealed Thursday.

Milton’s lawyers vehemently defended his innocence.

His legal team, led by Brad Bondi, said Milton was “wrongly charged following a flawed and incompetent investigation,” and that justice will not be served until after his discharge, a statement emailed Thursday said.

Read the full statement from Milton’s Legal Department:

Trevor Milton is innocent; This marks a new low in the government’s efforts to criminalize lawful business conduct. Every executive in America should be appalled.

Trevor Milton is an entrepreneur with a long-term vision to help the environment by reducing carbon emissions in the trucking industry.

Mr Milton was wrongly indicted following a flawed and incomplete investigation in which the government ignored critical evidence and failed to interview key witnesses.

From the start, this was an investigation in search of a crime. Justice has not been served by government action today, but it will be when Mr. Milton is exonerated.

The grand jury said Milton should forfeit all property “traceable to the commission of these crimes,” which would likely include the more than $ 1 billion it made when Nikola went public in June 2020.

Nikola shares were down as much as 11% during Thursday’s early trading session. The stock was trading at $ 12.73 per share, down 10.3% that afternoon.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday also brought charges of securities fraud against Milton. The SEC asked the US District Court for the Southern District of New York City to permanently ban him from serving as an officer at a company that issues securities, siphon off any ill-gotten gains, and pay a fine.