A 23-year-old self-described “Crypto King” from Whitby, Ontario, a town east of Toronto, allegedly owes at least $35 million to investors in what is shaping up to be a cryptocurrency scam.
More than 150 investors who handed over a collective $20 million to Aiden Pleterski and his company, AP Private Equity Limited, which reportedly invests in cryptocurrency and foreign exchange, are now working with Toronto-based fraud recovery lawyer Norman Groot to get their money back.
“It’s not clear at this time where those funds have gone, even though obviously a lot of it has to do with his lifestyle,” Groot, founder of Investigation Counsel PC, told CTV National News.
Pleterski owned 11 high-end cars, in addition to leasing several others, according to Groot. He also rented a waterfront home in Burlington for approximately $45,000 per month and owned five or six watches valued at between $200,000 and $400,000, according to a bankruptcy trustee’s report obtained by CTV National News.
“He was burning a lot of money,” Groot said.
So far, about $2.2 million in assets have been recovered, including two McLarens, two BMWs and a Lamborghini Huracan worth an estimated $350,000. About $32,000 worth of jewellery and another $606,773 in cash and bank drafts has also been recovered, according to bankruptcy documents filed in an Ontario court.
‘They Thought He was a Young Bill Gates’
The revelations come amid ongoing ails in the cryptocurrency world, which has suffered significant losses as investors have sobered up to the reality of what digital assets not tied to a specific hard asset or guaranteed by a government or institution are actually worth.
“The assets available shortly after bankruptcy are certainly much less than what’s owed to the investors,” Rob Stelzer, who was appointed as Pleterski’s bankruptcy trustee, told CTV News Toronto.
They also come amid other allegations of scheming and fraud — which has continued to drive lawmakers to seek to impose regulations surrounding how cryptocurrencies are valued and traded, and how those investing in them on behalf of investors should be reporting and verifying transactions.
Pleterski called every week “winning week,” promising investors 5-75 on returns, according to documents from a creditors meeting on Aug. 29.
“People bought into it. They thought he was a young Bill Gates,” Groot told CTV.
Pleterski reportedly began investing in cryptocurrency in 2015, with a paid Forbes article pre-dating his bankruptcy noting his ability to leverage his knowledge as an avid gamer to understand and thrive in the online trading world.
“A lot of this money was taken in while it was escalating in value, and then when it quickly started to de-escalate in value, people wanted what they thought were their profits…which of course, he couldn’t pay out,” Groot said.
‘A 20-Something-Year-Old Kid’
In a virtual creditor meeting last month, Pleterski claimed he lost all of the money given to him around late 2021 and early 2022 in a series of “margin calls and bad trades,” documents reviewed by CTV News Toronto show.
During the meeting, the bankruptcy trustee asked for evidence of these bad trades in addition to bank statements. “So, far Pleterski has failed to do so,” the minutes read, according to CTV News.
When Pleterski was asked why he continued to invest money when he knew it could not be repaid to investors, he said he was “…a 20-something-year-old kid.”
TheStreet recommends: Watch Out for Cryptocurrency Scams Related to the Queen
In response to questions about his bookkeeping, Pleterski said he was “very unorganized” and did not have “any accounting advice,” according to the minutes.
“Everything travelled through word of mouth and happened very quickly. He did not keep track of his finances, nor did he keep a record of his indebtedness or payments. Pleterski claimed that he and the creditors signed contracts via text message,” according to meeting minutes summarizing Pleterski’s responses on Aug. 29.