U.S. authorities on Thursday arrested Alex Mashinsky, the former CEO of failed crypto lending platform Celsius Network, on fraud charges while regulators levied a host of allegations of their own against him and other executives.
Prosecutors alleged in a criminal complaint filed in the Southern District of New York that Mashinsky, 57, “orchestrated a scheme to defraud customers” while inflating the price of Celsius’s own token, CEL. He was arrested in New York City, SDNY spokesperson Nicholas Biase confirmed.
The Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Federal Trade Commission also filed charges against Mashinsky. The FTC’s charges, which were also levied against two other Celsius co-founders, came as the agency struck a $4.7 billion pending settlement deal with Celsius that bars it from handling customer assets.
Celsius was one of several high-flying crypto companies that collapsed last year as contagion ripped through the markets. The charges are the latest sign that Washington’s crypto crackdown is still taking shape, even after regulators have gone after some of the biggest names in the market, such as Binance, Coinbase and Kraken.
Mashinsky “portrayed Celsius as a modern-day bank, where customers could safely deposit crypto assets and earn interest,” U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams wrote in the criminal indictment. “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 [he] had represented.”
An attorney representing Celsius did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Sam Sutton contributed to this report.