The rise and fall of Canada’s ‘Crypto King’ Aiden Pleterski

Aiden Pleterski
In a video obtained by CBC, Aiden Pleterski apologised to investors apologised to investors (Image: CBC News)

In December 2022, in the middle of the night, 25-year-old Aiden Pleterski was kidnapped in downtown Toronto.

His captors released the self-proclaimed “Crypto King” after three days but under threat – Mr Pleterski had to come up with some money, fast, according to court documents.

“I’m sorry, I really am, I didn’t want to or mean to ruin anyone’s life,” a bruised and bloodied Mr Pleterski is seen saying in a video obtained by CBC News. His lawyer later said the video was filmed during the kidnapping.

It wasn’t the first – or last – trouble for the young Canadian man who billed himself as a crypto whiz promising “savvy investments”.

This week, following a 16-month investigation, Ontario police and the provincial securities commission announced Mr Pleterski had been charged with fraud over C$5,000 ($3,600; £2,900) and for laundering the proceeds of crime.

Police also charged another man, Colin Murphy, 27, allegedly an associate of Mr Pleterski’s.

The investigation, dubbed “Project Swan” by authorities, is believed to be the largest fraud case ever in the region, Durham Regional Police Chief Peter Moreira said on Thursday.

It involved interviews with “a large number” of victims, over three dozen court orders and thousands of pages of financial documents, he said.

Mr Pleterski was not registered “in any capacity” with any Canadian securities regulator, said Stephen Henkel, with the Ontario Securities Commission.

Authorities said Mr Pleterski may have solicited investors as recently as February 2024.

If convicted, he could face up to 14 years behind bars.

None of the allegations against Mr Pleterski have been tested in court.

Announcing the charges on Thursday, Ontario authorities were tight-lipped about the details of their case, citing a publication ban surrounding the case.

But according to ongoing bankruptcy proceedings, Mr Pleterski had raised some C$41.5m from investors, promising to invest in cryptocurrency and foreign markets.

Mugshots of Pleterski and a another man

 (Image: Durham Regional Police Service)

 

He invested only 1.6% of that sum – while spending millions on luxury cars, flights on private jets and lakefront mansions, according to court documents.

Mr Pleterski was still in high school when he began dabbling in cryptocurrency, using it to make purchases in video games like Call of Duty.

At the same time, he started noticing people “posting luxury cars, posting luxury lifestyles” on social media, he said during an interview for his bankruptcy case.

Mr Pleterski looked into it and found many said they made their money from cryptocurrency investments.

“That’s what sparked my interest,” he said.

By 2020, Mr Pleterski began investing, starting with a few thousand dollars from family members and some money from his work as a baseball umpire.

By December of that year, he had moved into his own rental home, paying C$9,000 each month with income from his trading plus a “couple thousand dollars” from a government emergency benefit for people hurt financially by the Covid-19 pandemic.

A few months later, he had moved again – into a multi-million dollar five-bedroom mansion in Burlington, 50km (30 miles) south of Toronto.

That same year, his own parents wanted to invest and gave him a sum of C$50,000, according to court documents. Mr Pleterski gave his parents a return on their investment, they said, in addition to luxury gifts – a McLaren 60LT and BMW M8 for his dad, a Louis Vuitton bag and Burberry coat for his mother, and a 2017 Bentley Bentayga for the couple’s wedding anniversary.

Dragan and Kathy Pleterski told lawyers with Grant Thornton, an accounting firm and the appointed trustee in the bankruptcy case, they believed their son was “operating a successful investment business”.

All the while, he was cultivating the kind of social media presence that had first sparked his interest in investing. Mr Pleterski posted photos of himself on private jets, on holiday in Miami and the Bahamas, and of a driveway filled with luxury cars.

“Where will life bring me next?” he wrote in one caption.

But by April 2022, cracks in Mr Pleterski’s lavish life began to show.

Lawsuits brought by investors began piling up, with allegations he had misappropriated their money.

From there, it was a slow drip. In July, Ontario’s Superior Court ordered Mr Pleterski’s assets frozen. In August, the court ordered him and his company into bankruptcy.

Then, in December, came the alleged kidnapping.

Last summer, Toronto police arrested five suspects on kidnapping for ransom and other charges, including one man who had invested funds with Mr Pleterski, court documents say.

The new owners of Mr Pleterski’s Burlington mansion also faced threats.

Canadian NBA star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and his partner Hailey Summers fled the property after a man showed up and demanded to know where Mr Pleterski was.

After the couple reported the incident, police said they had received previous reports of attempted break-ins at the property.

“Ms Summers and Mr Gilgeous-Alexander were sufficiently alarmed by this news that they moved out of their newly purchased dream house, never to return,” their lawyer said in court documents. The couple later won a lawsuit voiding the purchase of the home.

For his part, Mr Pleterski made what appeared to be one of his first public references to the saga on Thursday, posting a simple Instagram story thanking his followers for standing by him.

“So many of you guys are supportive, y’all are amazing,” he wrote.

Source: bbc.co.uk

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