A grieving mother is on a quest for answers after her 25-year-old son died just days after coming across new footage alleged to show the kidnapping and torture of so-called “crypto king” Aiden Pleterski.
Video first emerged of Pleterski swollen to a squint with scarlet bruises shadowing his eyes in July 2023, six months after he was allegedly abducted, tortured and beaten by a group of individuals seeking $3 million in ransom.
The 12-minute video, released on an anonymous social media account, shows Pleterski apologizing to investors in a raspy voice while rocking back and forth in front of a non-descript wall.
- Watch CTV W5’s investigation “The Crypto Bros” in the player above
Pleterski’s lawyer has stated that some of the statements in that video were coerced.
But those clips were just a glimpse of the unedited footage taken during the three-day incident, according to Tracy Collins, mother of the late Clayton Soyka.
In the weeks prior to Collins losing her son, she said he told her he had seen the unedited version, which she said sounded more like a Netflix drama than real life.
As a friend of Pleterski, Soyka had a front row seat to the $40 million investment scheme the so-called “crypto king” was allegedly behind.
“There was water torture, there was hog tying, there was shooting a gun near his head,” Collins told W5 in an exclusive interview.
Collins said she asked her son to show her the video, said to contain dehumanizing imagery of Pleterski tied up in the back of a truck at a McDonald’s. But she said that he indicated he no longer had access to it. Instead, he shared a screenshot of Pleterski’s injured face with his mother.
In it, he’s barely recognizable, appearing morphed and swollen.
“He was worried about Aiden,” Collins said. Text messages obtained by W5 suggest that Pleterski “went into hiding” at Soyka’s Toronto apartment in the weeks after he was released by his purported captors.
But Collins was worried about her own son. She said that he told her he knew who was responsible for the kidnapping and that they were “bad people,” but that he was “protected” because he knew too much.
Two days later, he was dead. Police believe he took his own life and are not investigating his death.
‘It doesn’t make sense,’ mother says
Within hours of Soyka’s death on March 20, his phone and computer went missing from his apartment, according to Collins, recounting the painful day.
“It doesn’t make sense. How would everybody know he was dead that quickly?”
The Toronto Police Service refused to comment on what happened to Soyka’s personal items, which officers later traced and seized from an undisclosed location.
Almost a year later, police have not returned the phone or computer to Collins.
Detectives confirmed to W5 they are not investigating Soyka’s death, but his electronics are being held as evidence in an investigation into the alleged kidnapping of Pleterski, they said.
While Collins acknowledges that her son struggled with mental health and substance use, she still believes there’s more to the story of his death.
“It doesn’t add up. If it was a suicide, why did all this stuff happen within hours?”
The funeral, flanked by security guards, evoked more questions for Collins. She hadn’t hired the detail, one of which stood by the casket. Investigators were also present, taking pictures of licence plates and interviewing attendees.
“The funeral was just ridiculous,” she said.
While she didn’t encounter him, Collins said Pleterski was at the funeral and left a note, describing how her son had looked out for him and always put others first.
After the funeral, she reached out to Pleterski and many others, trying to find out what happened the day her son died.
Many didn’t respond, but Pleterski did.
“I do not know exactly what happened simply because I wasn’t there,” a message sent from Pleterski’s phone, obtained by W5, reads. “Quite frankly, I don’t believe what anybody tells me unless I witnessed something for myself … I don’t even have full closure on what happened, and I’m not sure I will. That’s the toughest part for me.”
Closure is exactly what Collins is after. “I’d like to find out what happened to my son,” she said.
‘I really miss the kid’: Pleterski
While W5 aired an investigation on Pleterski Saturday night, he launched a live stream, a regular occurrence for the 25-year-old who broadcasts his life for a small audience online.
About an hour into the stream, a viewer asked about Soyka. “I was literally around him almost every single day,” Pleterski said, pausing a virtual casino game to lean into the camera.
Visibly rattled, Pleterski acknowledged that the cops have Soyka’s possessions.
“They thought there was evidence on there that could lead to what happened to me, like, in respect to the kidnapping,” he said.
The viewer then appeared to strike a nerve, probing Pleterski on the death.
“You don’t know him like I knew him,” Pleterski continued. “You don’t know him like his parents f-ing knew him. You don’t know him like his friends f-ing knew him. You didn’t even f-ing know the kid.”
“It’s really sad. I really miss the kid,” he said.
CTV News Toronto and W5 continue to investigate the so-called “crypto king.” To submit a story tip, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.