New York State sues former Celsius CEO over alleged cryptocurrency fraud

Alex Mashinsky is accused of cheating people out of 'billions of dollars.'

Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Crypto lender Celsius Network is still facing the consequences of its tumultuous 2022 long after it declared bankruptcy. New York State Attorney General Letitia James has sued former Celsius CEO Alex Mashinsky for allegedly defrauding investors out of "billions of dollars" in cryptocurrency. The executive purportedly misled customers about Celsius' worsening financial health, and didn't register either as a salesperson or as a commodities and securities dealer.

The Attorney General's office claims Mashinsky falsely boasted of low-risk investments and reliable lending partners while "routinely" exposing investors to high-risk approaches that resulted in losses the company chief hid from customers. He also made untrue statements about safety, strategies and user numbers, according to the lawsuit. Celsius' ex-chief supposedly deceived hundreds of thousands of investors (over 26,000 in the state), some of which James says suffered "financial ruin."

New York hopes to ban Mashinsky from doing business in the state. It also wants him to pay damages and otherwise compensate investors. In a statement to Engadget, Celsius would only reiterate that Mashinsky resigned as CEO in September and is "no longer involved" in managing the firm.

Celsius is one of the more prominent casualties of last year's crypto crash. Its token's value plunged from $7 in 2021 to just $3 last spring. That was particularly damaging to a company that offered loans with little collateral and promised yields as high as 18.6 percent — it didn't have the resources needed to endure the crisis. It tried freezing withdrawals last June to stabilize its assets, but opted for bankruptcy the following month to restructure and otherwise give it a better chance to regroup.

The lawsuit isn't likely to be the end of the fallout. Several states are investigating Celsius' practices, and the Securities and Exchange Commission has been in touch. Celsius isn't alone in dealing with legal repercussions. Just this week, the crypto exchange Coinbase reached a $100 million settlement with New York over alleged financial rule violations. However, it's notable that the state is going after Mashinsky directly, not just the business he once ran.