The rise and fall of Canada's 'Crypto King' Aiden Pleterski –

  • Written by Holly Honderich
  • bbc news

image source, durham regional police

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

The arrestees released the self-proclaimed “crypto king” three days later, but Pretelski said he had received threats and needed to raise funds quickly, according to court documents.

“I’m so sorry. I didn’t want to ruin anyone’s life, and I never intended to,” said a bruised and bloody Pleterski. In a video obtained by CBC News.. His lawyer later said the video was taken during the kidnapping.

This was not the first or last trouble for this young Canadian man who calls himself a crypto guru who promises “smart investing.”

This week, after a 16-month investigation, Ontario Provincial Police and the provincial securities commission announced that Mr. Pretelski had been charged with fraud in excess of C$5,000 ($3,600, £2,900) and laundering the proceeds of crime. did.

Police have also charged another man, 27-year-old Colin Murphy, believed to be an associate of Mr Pretelski.

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

He said this included interviews with “numerous” victims, more than 30 court orders and thousands of pages of financial documents.

Ontario Securities Commissioner Stephen Henkel said Mr. Pretelski was not registered “in any capacity” with Canadian securities regulators.

Authorities said Mr. Pretelski may have been soliciting investors as late as February 2024.

If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 14 years in prison.

None of the allegations against Mr. Pretelski have been heard in court.

Ontario authorities, who announced the charges Thursday, remained mum on details of the case, citing a publication ban surrounding the case.

But according to ongoing bankruptcy proceedings, Mr. Pretelski had raised about C$41.5 million from investors with promises to invest in cryptocurrencies and overseas markets.

image caption, In a video obtained by CBC, Pretelski apologized to investors.

He invested just 1.6% of that amount, but spent millions on luxury cars, private jets and a lakefront mansion, according to court documents.

Pletelski was still in high school when he started dabbling in cryptocurrencies, using them to buy video games like Call of Duty.

At the same time, he began noticing that people were “posting luxury cars and lavish lifestyles” on social media, he said in an interview in the bankruptcy case.

Pretelski’s research found that many people say they have made money investing in cryptocurrencies.

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

By 2020, Pletelski had started investing with thousands of dollars from his family and money he earned from his job as a baseball umpire.

By December of the same year, he had moved into his own rented home, relying on the income from his trade and “thousands of dollars” from the government’s emergency benefits for people financially hit by the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, I paid CAD 9,000 per month.

A few months later, he moved again to a multimillion-dollar, five-bedroom mansion in Burlington, 50 kilometers south of Toronto.

That same year, his own parents gave him C$50,000 to invest, according to court documents. Mr. Preterski gave his parents lavish gifts, including a McLaren 60LT and BMW M8 for his father, a Louis Vuitton bag and Burberry coat for his mother, and a 2017 Bentley Bentayga for the couple’s wedding. In addition, he reportedly gave his parents a return on his investment. anniversary.

Mr. Dragan and Kathy Pretelsky told lawyers from the accounting firm Grant Thornton, which was appointed as a trustee in the bankruptcy case, that they believed their son was “successful in the investment business.”

All the while, he was cultivating the kind of social media presence that first sparked his interest in investing. Mr. Pretelski posted photos of himself vacationing in Miami and the Bahamas on a private jet, as well as photos of his driveway filled with luxury cars.

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

But by April 2022, cracks in Pretelsky’s lavish lifestyle were beginning to show.

Lawsuits filed by investors began to pile up, accusing him of misappropriating their funds.

From there, it was a slow drip. In July, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ordered Mr. Pretelski’s assets to be frozen. In August, a court ordered him and his company to file for bankruptcy.

Then, in December, the kidnapping charges arose.

Last summer, Toronto police arrested five suspects on charges including kidnapping for ransom, including one man who had invested money with Mr. Pretelski, according to court documents.

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

Canadian NBA star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and his partner Hayley Summers fled the property after a man appeared and demanded to know where Pretelski was.

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

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

Meanwhile, Pretelski made what appears to be his first public address to the story on Thursday, posting an Instagram Story thanking his followers for their support.

“So many of you are supporting me. You all are amazing,” he wrote.