MAYBE WE’RE NGMI AFTER ALL?
If anyone has ever looked at some hot-shot kid making millions of dollars and thought to themselves, “Damn, what’s their secret? How are they so successful?” the secret could be a lot darker than you’d think. That’s certainly the case for the 23-year-old “Crypto-King” Aiden Pleterski, a resident of Whitby, Ontario. He has been accused of ripping off millions of dollars in a supposed Ponzi scheme and seen a fleet of supercars, including a Lamborghini and two McLarens, seized by creditors.
TO THE MOON
The story goes that Aiden, ever an entrepreneurial mind, got into the world of stocks and crypto around the age of 16. Aiden discovered cryptocurrency as a way of buying and selling items in a video game, at least according to his self-published article in Forbes.mc.
Back then, Bitcoin was trading at the low, low price of a couple of hundred bucks, and only niche communities knew of its existence. It’s more than plausible that Aiden got in early while buying and selling his video game items and managed to hold on to enough of it that by the time he left college at aged 21 (when Bitcoin was over $25,000), he had a nice little portfolio to his name.
What happened next is where things get murky. Aiden somehow leveraged that early success into receiving investments of over $35,000,000 to trade crypto. But how did he do it? Some of his investors, including the 65-year-old Clarington, Ontario resident Diana Moore. She had met Aiden through an acquaintance and ended up investing $60,000 of her retirement money with him. However, it’s unlikely that all his investors knew him personally, and it’s likely that they would have first been introduced to the young Canadian hotshot through one of the many “articles” documenting his great success.
STOP THE PRESSES
One of the ways Aiden gained notoriety is through a series of articles that had been written about him on high-profile websites. We’ve already mentioned the one in Forbes.mc, Monaco’s top-level domain, as well as other sites like the far-right news outlet, The Daily Caller, and tech sites such as TechTimes.com. While this may seem like a news/tech site picking up on a general interest story, the cracks start to appear when you look closer.
The major fault line is that every single one of these articles is exactly the same, down to the spelling and grammar mistakes. It certainly looks like an article Aiden wrote about himself and paid sites to publish for him. What makes things worse for him is that his prose seems to show a lack of a fundamental understanding of crypto, saying things like, “Bitcoin is a ‘finite’ form of currency, in that its true value never changes.” Any asset’s “true value” is only that which people are willing to pay for it, and anyone who’s been in the crypto space knows exactly how many ups and downs there are!
It reminds you of those spam emails sent by the deposed King of Nigeria asking you to “send monies to his account” so he can pay you millions upon his return to the throne. Anyone with half a brain cell can realize this is a scam, and that’s the point. They deliberately target the people who don’t know better and will therefore be more vulnerable and susceptible to scams. You have to wonder whether something similar was going on with these articles or whether Aiden just simply never learned how to write properly!
What further solidifies the assumption that these were paid placements written by Aiden is that all the articles are written by some variation of “Staff Writer.” While not uncommon for large organizations, it doesn’t scream “big scoop;” rather, it gives the air of an obligation. Contrast this to PIOnline’s article on Ryan Israel being promoted to CIO of Pershing Square; there’s actually a reporter’s name on the piece! Most of the time, these pieces have been bought and paid for, something that most readers won’t know when reading.
Whatever you think of the articles, they certainly seemed to work! Aiden managed to accrue over $35 million in investments for his company, AP Private Equity Limited, to trade with. However, as you can imagine, things did not go swimmingly for the young Canadian which is why creditors are making visits to seize his $3 million supercar collection. Aiden reportedly told his creditors that he lost most of the money given to him “in a series of margin calls and bad trades.” While the creditors haven’t seen those receipts, Aiden had repeatedly been flashing other receipts on his now barren Instagram.
A common term used in the crypto community, essentially asking, “When are we gonna get filthy fucking rich?” Aiden fulfilled the dreams of many by actually buying a Lambo. Despite his Instagram being scrubbed, one of the two remaining images is him with his bright green Lambo, and most of the pictures you’ll find of him online are with his car. I mean, if I had a car like that, I’d certainly want a lot of pictures taken with it too! However, I may not be so shutter happy if that car was the result of allegedly defrauding people out of millions of dollars.
While there doesn’t seem to be any receipts of Aiden making crypto trades with his investments, at least not according to his creditors who spoke with CBC Toronto, there are certainly receipts of his lavish lifestyle. There’s the $3 million fleet of supercars that have recently been seized, which included a Lamborghini, two McLarens, and two BMWs – quite the haul for one person!
Even that doesn’t cover his whole car collection, as he reportedly owns eleven vehicles and was leasing four other luxury cars – he does realize that when they run out of gas, you don’t have to buy a new one, right? As well as having enough cars for an entire rugby team, Aiden repeatedly flew on private jets and rented a lakefront mansion in Burlington, Ontario, for $45,000 a month.
There have been reports of other assets that could yet be seized from Aiden, including the rest of his luxury car fleet, watches, and gold bars. In fact, Aiden was asked if he had ever owned a Patek Philippe watch and what happened to it if he did. To which, Aiden rather flippantly replied, “I’ve never owned a watch with a greater value of $600,000” – you and me both, Aiden!
It’s easy to assume that from such a shopping list, he burned through the money and is now broke, but Norman Groot, founder of Investigation Counsel PC, doesn’t think all of the money has been accounted for. He told CBC Toronto, “This guy had a large lifestyle burn rate, but it doesn’t account for the amount of money that’s missing,” which begs the question of where the rest went. While the answer to that may come out as creditors dig further into his assets, it sure would have been handy if he had some lying around to hire a lawyer.
THE BLAME GAME
Speaking of which, it seems that Aiden and his lawyer, Michael Simaan, see things differently to the over 140 investors who have filed a civil suit against him. They say that the claims from the defendants are “wildly exaggerated” and that Aiden never solicited funds from his investors; rather, they came to him for his expertise in the crypto market and were hoping to make some money.
Simaan goes on to say, “Shockingly, it seems that nobody bothered to consider what would happen if the cryptocurrency market plummeted or whether Aiden, as a very young man, was qualified to handle these types of investments,” which is a fair point.
While the majority of the blame has to go to Aiden for allegedly deceiving his investors into thinking he was some kind of crypto whiz kid, some blame has to go to the investors for not doing their due diligence. It’s certainly possible that Aiden’s early success would have been enough to persuade people that the crypto market was easy and “only went up,” whereas, in reality, we know it’s a lot more tumultuous than that.
Even so, some responsibility has to be on the investors for not properly researching what they’re investing in. It’s one thing giving your money to a company like Black Rock and letting them do their thing, but it’s quite another doing the same with a 23-year-old kid. When I hear stories like these, I’m always reminded of the mantra, “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” Remind yourself of that when the next Aiden Pleterski comes along.