Late one night in early December, Aiden Pleterski, a self-proclaimed “Crypto King,” was kidnapped, then beaten and tortured for three days, according to court records.
Eventually, his captors — including one of his investors — let him go, but they let him go with a threat: Pay up quickly and don’t go to the police, court records said.
This week, Akil Heywood, 39, who invested with Mr Pleterski, 24, was charged with kidnapping him. The Toronto Police Service said in a statement on Monday that it arrested and charged four men on charges of kidnapping for ransom and other charges: Mr. Heywood, Tyler Fast, 37, and Deren Akyeam-Pong, 24, all of Toronto, as well as Rakeem Henry, 24, of London.
Mr. Heywood was among dozens who invested with Mr. Pleterski, who allegedly invested his money in cryptocurrency and foreign exchanges, according to court documents. But after spending money fueling a lavish lifestyle, buying three Lamborghinis and three McLarens, Mr Pleterski filed for bankruptcy in August, leaving investors wondering what happened to their money.
Mr. Heywood, who did not respond to requests for comment this week, filed a claim for the loss of $740,000 he invested with Mr. Pleterski, according to Grant Thornton, the appointed trustee in the bankruptcy case. It was unclear whether the three other men charged in the kidnapping also invested with Mr. Pleterski.
Here’s what to know about Mr. Pleterski, his kidnapping and his bankruptcy.
Kidnapping in the middle of the night.
The Toronto Police Service said they were alerted to a missing person in downtown Toronto on December 5th. The victim in the kidnapping was “lured into a vehicle by the suspects”, and that once he was inside, two men pointed guns at him, said the police.
The Toronto police did not name Mr. Pleterski when they announced the arrests, but court documents indicate that it was Mr. Pleterski who was abducted on the night of Dec. 5.
The suspects “demanded a large amount of Canadian currency, and the victim’s life and family were threatened,” police said.
The victim was “held captive” for three days while he was taken to several locations where he was attacked, police said. At some point during the three days, police said, a gun was discharged, but they did not say if anyone was injured as a result.
After three days, the victim was released in downtown Toronto, police said.
In a court interview in December, Dragan Pleterski, Mr. Pleterski’s father, said that while he was kidnapped, his son was beaten and tortured, and that he was only allowed to call specific people.
“I was not one of those people he was allowed to contact,” Mr. Pleterski said. “He was released with the threat that he needed to come up with some money quickly, and if he had gone to the police it would have been a lot more trouble.”
An investigation prompted the arrest of the four men in early July, one of whom had a loaded handgun, police said.
Mr Heywood was arrested on July 5 and was released on bail. Mr. Fast was also released on bail.
As of Wednesday, Mr. Henry had not had a bail hearing, and Mr. Akyeam-Pong was arrested after his bail hearing, according to the Ontario Court of Justice in Toronto.
Mr. Henry did not respond to requests for comment this week. Mr. Akyeam-Pong and Mr. Fasto could not be reached, and it was unclear whether they had lawyers.
Who is Aiden Pleterski?
Mr. Pleterski, a “self-described ‘Crypto King,'” ran AP Private Equity Limited as an investment business, according to court documents.
Mr Pleterski did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday. Micheal Simaan, a lawyer for Mr Pleterski, declined to comment on Wednesday.
Mr. Pleterski attended Fanshawe College in London, Ontario, to study cyber security, according to a court interview he gave for his bankruptcy case in November before he was kidnapped.
In the interview, Mr. Pleterski said he had received no formal education in investing, cryptocurrencies, financial markets or foreign exchange markets. Mr. Pleterski said he started investing in cryptocurrency markets when he was about 16 or 17 years old after using cryptocurrency while playing video games.
“That piqued my interest,” he said, adding that “around the same time on social media, that’s when I started seeing some individuals as well, posting luxury cars, posting luxury lifestyles.”
Mr. Pleterski said he started investing with a few thousand dollars he received from family members, including birthday money, and umpiring baseball games.
“Most of the money came from family members,” he said in the interview.
Three McLaren, two Lamborghini and three Audi
Mr Pleterski incorporated AP Private Equity Limited on December 13, 2021, according to court documents. Around that time, he started looking for people to invest in cryptocurrencies and foreign markets.
Several people, including Mr. Heywood, invested millions with Mr. Pleterski. According to court documents, Mr. Pleterski raised about $41.5 million from investors, but he invested only 1.6 percent of that money, “meaning that 98.4% of what Pleterski collected was never invested.”
Instead, Mr. Pleterski spent about $15.9 million on “complex vacations,” private jet rentals and several luxury vehicles, including three McLarens, two Lamborghinis, three Audis and two BMWs, according to court documents.
A bank analysis found that “the extravagant lifestyle that Pleterski lived, which was financed by his investors,” “ultimately led to his bankruptcy,” court records said.
More than 150 creditors filed claims against Mr. Pleterski in the bankruptcy, according to Grant Thornton.
Mr. Pleterski appeared beaten on video.
In video received this week by CBC Toronto, a visibly beaten Mr. Pleterski apologized to investors and provided a timeline of what happened to the money they lost. It is unclear when the video was made, but Mr Pleterski’s lawyer told the news outlet that his captors forced him to speak.
“When the crypto market started tanking in November of 2021, I should be honest with everybody,” Mr. Pleterski said in the video, adding that he lost about $45 million in the crypto market within a month.
“I lost enough where my debts outweighed my assets,” he said, adding later in the video that he wants to “make it right for everybody.”
“I’ll do it before I go and buy myself another car, before I go and buy myself another watch, before I go and buy myself expensive clothes or anything,” Mr. Pleterski said. “I will live on the bare minimum until every last soul is rewarded.”