Late one night in early December, Aiden Pleterski, a self-proclaimed “Crypto King,” was kidnapped, then beaten and tortured over three days, according to court records.
Eventually, his kidnappers — including one of his investors — let him go, but they left him with a threat: Pay up fast and don’t go to the police, court records said.
This week, Akil Heywood, 39, who had invested with Mr. Pleterski, 24, was charged with kidnapping him. The Toronto Police Service said in a statement on Monday that it had arrested and charged four men on counts 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 was supposed to invest their money in cryptocurrency and foreign exchange positions, according to court documents. But after spending money feeding a lavish lifestyle, buying three Lamborghinis and three McLarens, Mr. Pleterski filed for bankruptcy in August, leaving investors wondering what had happened to their money.
Mr. Heywood, who did not respond to requests for comment this week, had filed a claim for losing $740,000 that he had 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 had also invested with Mr. Pleterski.
Here’s what to know about Mr. Pleterski, his kidnapping and his bankruptcy filing.
A kidnapping in the middle of the night.
The Toronto Police Service said they were alerted about a missing person in the downtown Toronto area on Dec. 5. The victim in the kidnapping was “lured into a vehicle by the suspects,” and that once he was inside, two men pointed firearms at him, the police said.
The Toronto police did not name Mr. Pleterski when they announced the arrests, but court documents indicate that it was Mr. Pleterski who had been kidnapped on the night of Dec. 5.
The suspects “demanded a large amount of Canadian currency, and the victim’s life and family were threatened,” the police said.
The victim was “held captive” for three days while he was taken to several places, where he was assaulted, the police said. At one point over the three days, the police said, a firearm was discharged, but they did not say whether anyone was injured as a result.
After three days, the victim was let go in the downtown Toronto area, the 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 allowed to make phone calls only to specific people.
“I was not one of those people that he was allowed to contact,” Mr. Pleterski said. “He was released with the threat that he needed to come up with some money fast, and if he had went to the police, that there would be a lot more trouble.”
An investigation prompted the arrest of the four men in early July, one of whom had a loaded handgun, the 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 detained 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. Fast 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 cybersecurity, according to a court interview he did for his bankruptcy case in November before he was kidnapped.
In the interview, Mr. Pleterski said that he did not receive formal education in investing, cryptocurrencies, financial markets or foreign currency markets. Mr. Pleterski said that he started investing in cryptocurrency markets when he was about 16 or 17 after using cryptocurrency while playing videos games.
“That’s what peaked 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 that he started investing with a few thousand dollars he had received from family members, including birthday money, and umpiring baseball games.
“The majority of the money came from family members,” he said in the interview.
Three McLarens, two Lamborghinis and three Audis
Mr. Pleterski incorporated AP Private Equity Limited on Dec. 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 “elaborate vacations,” private jet rentals and several luxury vehicles, including three McLarens, two Lamborghinis, three Audis and two BMWs, according to court documents.
A banking analysis found that “the extravagant lifestyle that Pleterski lived, which was funded by his investors,” had “ultimately led to his bankruptcy,” court records said.
More than 150 creditors have filed claims against Mr. Pleterski in the bankruptcy case, according to Grant Thornton.
Mr. Pleterski appeared beaten in a video.
In a video received this week by CBC Toronto, a visibly beaten Mr. Pleterski apologized to investors and provided a timeline of what had happened to the money they lost. It is unclear when the video was taken, but Mr. Pleterski’s lawyer told the news outlet that his kidnappers had forced him to speak.
“When the crypto market started to tank in November of 2021, I should have been honest with everybody,” Mr. Pleterski said in the video, adding that he had lost about $45 million in the crypto market within a month.
“I lost enough to where my debts outweighed my assets,” he said, adding later in the video that he wanted to “make it right for everybody.”
“I’m going to 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 clothing or anything,” Mr. Pleterski said. “I’m going to live on the bare minimum until every last soul is paid back.”