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Investor who lost $740K to Ontario’s Crypto King among 5 men charged with kidnapping him

A Toronto investor who lost thousands to Ontario’s self-proclaimed Crypto King is one of five men facing charges connected to the alleged kidnapping, forcible confinement and assault of Aiden Pleterski last December, CBC Toronto has learned.

CBC Toronto previously reported details of Pleterski’s alleged kidnapping based on a report from ongoing bankruptcy proceedings against the 24-year-old. In the bankruptcy, investors have been working for nearly a year to try and track down more than $40 million given to Pleterski to invest in crypto currency and foreign exchange.

Akil Heywood has been arrested for allegedly kidnapping Pleterski and for threatening the administrator overseeing the bankruptcy in an attempt to get $2 million in crypto currency, according to court records. 

The same day CBC Toronto learned of those charges, CBC reporters received a 12-minute edited video which shows a visibly beaten Pleterski explaining what he claims happened to the money he was given and apologizing to investors. 

Pleterski’s lawyer, Micheal Simaan, told CBC Toronto neither he nor his client have seen the complete video so Pleterski can’t really comment on it.

“All [Pleterski] can say is that while some of it is accurate, he was being forced to say a lot of it by his kidnappers,” said Simaan in an email.

WATCH | CBC Toronto receives video of beaten Aiden Pleterski apologizing to investors:

CBC Toronto received an edited video of a visibly beaten Aiden Pleterski on the same day reporters learned five men are facing charges for allegedly kidnapping him last December. One of the alleged kidnappers invested and lost $740,000.

“Aiden is grateful for the work of the Toronto Police in apprehending those involved in his kidnapping and assault.” 

Toronto police would not verify the video or comment on the investigation.

Heywood was arrested on July 5 and charged with kidnapping Pleterski against his will, kidnapping with intent to hold him for ransom, conspiring to kidnap, and confining Pleterski on or around Dec. 5, 2022. He’s since been released on bail.

The 39-year-old is also charged with threatening Grant Thornton bankruptcy trustee Rob Stelzer to induce him to pay $2 million in crypto currency later that month and faces the same threat-for-money charge involving another man connected to the case.

A bankruptcy trustee is a federally regulated professional responsible for investigating the finances of a person or business that has gone bankrupt and administering their estate. 

Heywood says he’s innocent

Heywood declined an interview request or to answer questions for this story, but told CBC Toronto he is innocent. 

Heywood was named one of five inspectors elected by other investors in August 2022 to represent their interests in the bankruptcy proceedings. He and Atlantic Mas Foundation, a non-profit Heywood founded, invested $740,000 with Pleterski, according to court records.

A court motion in the bankruptcy case states, “major decisions made by the trustee must be approved by the inspectors similar to the manner in which major decisions of management are approved by a board of directors” and the trustee provides inspectors the details of all aspects of their strategy and activities.

A man stands in front of a wall with the name of his law firm written on it.
Norman Groot, a fraud recovery lawyer, says this case is highly unusual. (Paul Borkwood/CBC)

“I’ve never seen a bankruptcy proceeding where an inspector is charged in a kidnapping and a forcible confinement related to recovering money in a bankruptcy,” said fraud recovery lawyer Norman Groot, who is representing some of the investors.

“Mr. Heywood would have been privy to the particulars of whatever investigation Grant Thornton was conducting — and the concern always, ‘Is that information going to be used for their own purpose outside of the bankruptcy proceeding?'”

In an email, a spokesperson for Grant Thornton said Heywood resigned as an inspector in the Pleterski bankruptcy on July 7.

“We’ve been co-operating with police and have maintained open lines of communication,” said Lindsay Barnes. “We cannot comment any further as this is an active investigation.”

Pleterski flagged threats within weeks of alleged kidnapping

Less than two weeks before Pleterski was allegedly kidnapped, he was interviewed for the bankruptcy on Nov. 24, 2022.

During the interview, Pleterski told the representative for the trustee that “Akil [Heywood] is still, by the way, uttering threats, and very dangerous, violent threats, to me over Instagram comment sections and text messages.”

Pleterski’s lawyer told CBC Toronto that while Pleterski “wished that his concerns were taken more seriously by the trustee, he also recognizes the difficult role they have to play in satisfying many parties whose interests often conflict with one another.” 

“That said, he certainly hopes that the events of the past few days will cause the trustee to be more understanding of Aiden’s concerns, and hopefully to not jump to conclusions as to the reasons behind Aiden’s actions,” said Simaan. 

Simaan also said his client “looks forward to the fairest conclusion of the bankruptcy process for all parties involved.” 

Heywood is one of five men facing dozens of charges related to Pleterski’s alleged kidnapping in December. Some of the other men were charged with additional offences, including pointing a firearm at Pleterski, discharging a firearm in a way that was reckless to the life or safety of Pleterski, and for allegedly assaulting him.

None of the charges related to the alleged kidnapping have been tested in court.

A young man sits in the seat of a private jet looking at his phone.
Aiden Pleterski spent nearly $16 million of investor funds on himself, renting private jets, going on vacations and adding luxury cars to his collection, according to a bankruptcy report. (aiden_pletersik/Instagram)

Details from a bankruptcy report previously revealed Pleterski’s father told the trustee his son was driven around southern Ontario, beaten and tortured in December. Pleterski’s landlord also said he got a call, asking for a ransom of $3 million. After a few days, Pleterski’s father said his son was released but told to come up with some money soon, according to an interview transcript. 

Pleterski says in video he lost $45M in a month

In the video received by CBC Toronto, Pleterski provides a timeline of when he started investing in cryptocurrency for himself in 2020, how that expanded to family and friends, and then to others, and how in the second half of 2021, “everything went downhill.” 

“When the crypto market started to tank in November of 2021, I should have been honest with everybody,” Pleterski said in the video.

“I lost enough to where my debts outweighed my assets … I lost close to $45 million strictly alone in the crypto market within one month.”

Man standing in driveway with fancy car.
In a video received by CBC Toronto, Pleterski acknowledges using some investor deposits toward personal expenses, like car payments and insurance. (aiden_pleterski/Instagram)

According to a bankruptcy report from earlier this year, there’s only evidence of Pleterski investing about $670,700 — less than two per cent of the funds given to him by investors. The report says Pleterski spent nearly $16 million of investor funds on himself, renting private jets, going on vacations and adding luxury cars to his collection.

Pleterski says in video he will pay investors back

Later in the video, Pleterski acknowledges using some investor deposits toward personal house payments, insurance payments for cars, car payments and food expenses. He then goes on to apologize to investors.

“I’m sorry, I really am. I didn’t want to, or mean to, ruin anybody’s life. I know some people’s lives have been ruined by this,” Pleterski said in the video.

“I honestly feel very, very humiliated, I feel embarrassed.… No one should ever, ever, ever, ever do what I did.”

Near the end of the video, Pleterski talks about wanting to “make it right for everybody.” 

“I’m going to work for it,” he said in the video. 

“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. I’m going to live on the bare minimum until every last soul is paid back.”

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