US prosecutors charged the former CEO of bankrupt cryptocurrency platform Celsius Networks with defrauding customers and misleading them about the company’s business.
An indictment unsealed Thursday in New York charges Alexander Mashinsky with securities fraud, wire fraud and commodities fraud.
Mashinsky and Roni Cohen-Pavon, Celsius’ chief revenue officer, were also charged with multiple counts of manipulating the price of the platform’s native crypto token, CEL, while they were offloading their own tokens at inflated prices.
“Mashinsky portrayed Celsius as a modern-day bank, where customers could safely deposit crypto assets and earn interest,” the indictment states. “In truth, however, Mashinsky operated Celsius as a risky investment fund, taking in customer money under false and misleading pretenses and turning customers into unwitting investors in a business far riskier and far less profitable than what Mashinsky had represented.”
Mashinsky pleaded not guilty and was released on a $40 million bond. His attorney, Jonathan Ohring, said that Mashinsky “vehemently denies the allegations” and “looks forward to vigorously defending himself in court.”
Celsius was one of several prominent crypto companies that imploded last year as the value of digital assets cratered, in some cases revealing signs of widespread fraud. Federal prosecutors and regulators have been aggressively pursuing charges against the companies and their founders, including Sam Bankman-Fried, who was arrested in December and charged with orchestrating one of the largest financial frauds in US history through his FTX platform. He has pleaded not guilty and is expected to stand trial in October.