Nikola founder Trevor Milton accused of sexual abuse by two women

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Two women have made sexual assault allegations against Nikola founder Trevor Milton, accusing the 38-year-old billionaire in complaints filed with Utah authorities of sexual abuse when the two women were 15.The accusations, which date back more than 15 years, follow Milton’s resignation as executive chairman of Nikola on September 21 after short-seller Hindenburg Research released a damning report detailing the fraud allegations. The report allegedly sparked investigations into Milton and Nikola by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice.

Since the publication of the Hindenburg report just over two weeks ago, shareholder lawsuits and personal attacks on social media have started to pour in.

Through a spokesperson, Milton “strongly denied” what he called false allegations and declined to address specific details of the women’s complaints.

The turnaround for Milton was quick. The company went public on June 4, and Milton was one of Wall Street’s new billionaires under 40. Although Phoenix-based Nikola did not produce a single vehicle, the start-up had a market value of $ 28.8 billion days after its IPO. – a little more than Ford Motor – and Milton briefly had a paper net worth of over $ 8.6 billion. General Motors signed an agreement with Nikola to supply the technology and build its electric pickup trucks on September 8.

The Hindenburg report was followed by bombshell allegations on social media on September 21 by Milton’s cousin Aubrey Ferrin Smith, who publicly accused Milton on Twitter and Facebook of groping her topless after a family funeral in outside Salt Lake City in 1999 when she was 15 and 17.

Ferrin Smith filed a formal complaint Saturday with local police in Holladay, Utah, where the alleged assault took place. Sgt. Melody Cutler of the Utah Unified Police Department confirmed that a report has been filed against Milton along with details repeating the charges she made on Twitter.

CNBC does not report the names of sexual assault victims and Cutler has refused to disclose the identity of the alleged victim. Ferrin Smith and his lawyer have agreed to speak officially about his case.

The second alleged assault, which has not been previously reported, took place in 2004 when Milton was said to have turned 22 and hired a 15-year-old girl as an office assistant for a security company he ran in St. George, Utah, according to Craig Johnson, a former prosecutor who represents the two women.

He even asked his parents for permission to take him, “but it made me uncomfortable when he started talking about having bubble baths together in Puerto Rico,” she said, adding that she ended up not going.

Ferrin Smith said she was in Utah for her grandfather’s funeral at one of her uncle’s homes outside of Salt Lake City in September 1999 when her alleged assault took place. The two cousins, who come from a large Mormon family in Utah, ended up watching TV alone in a room of the house, she said. Milton told her he was taking a massage class at school and convinced her to take off her top for a massage, she said in an interview with CNBC.

“He undid my bra like completely without my consent, and I froze,” she said. She was sitting in front of the TV when Milton reached out from behind and curled up her breasts, she said.

“It just didn’t calculate, because I was like, he’s a family member, he has the priesthood, he was going on a mission soon, that he loved to talk about… I didn’t even think, I told him. trusted, ”she said.

The incident rocked her and she said she told her best friend Libby Cannon Miller at the time. The teenage girls had a sleepover a few weeks later when Cannon Miller could hear Ferrin Smith crying after going to bed, Cannon Miller said in an interview.

“She told me when she was visiting her family, her and her cousin, there was a group of them watching a movie and at one point some people left and her cousin went. asked if he could give her a massage, ”Cannon Miller. “Then she told me that the massage had migrated from the back to the front and that it had happened without her consent.

Ferrin Smith also confided in his mother at the time, who confirmed the same account of events to CNBC. She also went to see the bishop of the local Mormon church in her hometown of Naperville, Ill., Taylor Manning, who did not respond to messages left on a cell phone believed to be her number.

He also did not respond to a message left at the Naperville Illinois Stake, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which declined to comment. Peter Schofield, an attorney for Kirton McConkie, who represents the LDS Church, did not return an email requesting comment on the matter. In 2017, when the #MeToo movement was in full swing, Ferrin Smith relayed the story of his alleged assault on Facebook, without identifying Milton by name.

“When I was assaulted, I was 15 years old. I didn’t want to tell anyone because I thought I should have known, ”she wrote at the time. She said when she confronted him, he said “he was only apologizing because he was my cousin”.

Johnson, who represents the women, said he does not believe the statute of limitations applies in both cases. Utah has since waived it for most sex crimes, he said.In the St. George case, he stated that the alleged rape of object offense is a first degree felony punishable by five years to life in prison. Forced sexual abuse carries a sentence of one to 15 years in prison, Johnson said.

Blake Nakamura, deputy chief of the Salt Lake County district attorney’s office, said officials regularly investigate older allegations, but it is on a case-by-case basis if they can pursue charges.

Nakamura said older cases between two minors rather than an adult and a minor are more difficult to establish. Sex crimes between the ages of 14 and 17 are generally considered a misdemeanor, according to Nakamura.

He said there are circumstances under which a case could be opened but that an investigation should be opened after the alleged victim files a complaint with local authorities.

GM declined to say whether the company was aware of any allegations of fraud or sexual abuse involving Milton. GM CEO Mary Barra earlier this month defended the company’s $ 2 billion non-cash deal with Nikola, saying it conducted “due diligence” before announcing the deal.

“Our deal with Nikola is not closed,” a GM spokesperson said in an email Monday. “We are continuing our discussions with Nikola and will provide further updates as necessary or necessary. ”

The deal is expected to be done on Wednesday.

GM was introduced to Nikola by Steve Girsky, the former GM vice president who took over from Milton as Nikola’s executive chairman earlier this month. Girsky is a Managing Partner at VectoIQ, the special purpose acquisition company that floated Nikola on the stock market and joined Nikola’s board of directors after the transaction closed.

Girsky previously said his company “came up with an army of people to diligently do this thing” regarding Nikola, according to a webcast with an industry show called Autoline in early August.

“We really crawled all over these guys. It wasn’t pleasant at times, ”he said, adding later that he’s“ sure there will be twists and turns here, but I put my reputation on the line for that. thing. ”

Girsky did not return calls or texts for comment. VectoIQ did not resend any emails. Nikola declined to comment.

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