Five men are facing charges for the abduction of Aiden Pleterski, known as the “Crypto King” of Ontario. The alleged motive is to recover investments they claim were misappropriated.
The kidnapping reportedly occurred last December. Among the accused kidnappers is 39-year-old Akil Heywood, who had lost $740,000 in investments to Pleterski.
Heywood served as an inspector for investors involved in the bankruptcy case. He had invested $740,000 through his non-profit organization, the Atlantic Mas Foundation.
The situation has raised questions as a bankruptcy inspector has been charged in a kidnapping and forcible confinement case for trying to recover funds. Fraud recovery lawyer Norman Groot commented on the unprecedented nature of this incident.
“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,” he said.
According to Toronto police, the suspected kidnappers enticed Pleterski into a vehicle, exhibited firearms, and kept him captive for three days. Court documents suggest that the kidnappers attempted to obtain millions in ransom while threatening Pleterski’s life and his family before releasing him in downtown Toronto.
Heywood was arrested on July 5 and charged with various offenses, including kidnapping, kidnapping for ransom, conspiracy to commit an indictable offense, forcible confinement and two counts of extortion.
He was also charged with threatening a bankruptcy trustee involved in the case, Rob Stelzer, a partner at Grant Thornton, and attempting to extort $2 million worth of cryptocurrency from him. Heywood, however, denies all allegations against him.
“My understanding is that he resigned shortly after being charged with respect to the kidnapping of Pleterski.”
Norman Groot, Fraud recovery lawyer
Groot explained that Heywood had access to the specific details of Grant Thornton’s investigation, raising concerns about whether that information could be used for purposes other than the bankruptcy case.
He found it intriguing whether a trustee has the authority to dismiss an inspector during a bankruptcy case if there are concerns about the inspector posing a risk to the investigation.
However, Heywood decided to step down from his role as an inspector on July 7, just two days after his arrest. A representative from Grant Thornton verified this information to CTV News Toronto.
“My understanding is that he resigned shortly after being charged with respect to the kidnapping of Pleterski,” said Groot.
Three other suspects were arrested and charged in the same month for their involvement in the kidnapping. They are Deren Akyeam-Pong, Rakeem Henry and Tyler Fast.
Canadian media CBC obtained a video on the same day the men were charged, showing a bruised Pleterski apologizing to investors while explaining what happened to the money.
Pleterski confessed to facing losses of approximately $45 million from investments in cryptocurrencies, specifically during the market downturn starting at the end of 2021 in the video. The “crypto king” expressed remorse for not being honest with everyone during the downturn. He said he attempted to recover the funds but only led to more losses.
“I apologize for everything,” Pleterski said. “I didn’t mean to ruin anybody’s life … I honestly feel very, very humiliated. I feel embarrassed.”
Pleterski is currently embroiled in a year-long bankruptcy case. Investors are seeking to reclaim over $40 million in crypto and foreign exchange investments lost under his management.
This year’s bankruptcy report discloses that Pleterski’s cryptocurrency investment amounted to only $670,000, representing two percent of the total funds invested. The report suggests he spent around $16 million on extravagant expenses, such as private jet bookings, holidays and luxury car purchases.
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