Former Celsius executive pleads guilty to price manipulation charges

Roni Cohen-Pavon, the former chief revenue officer at Celsius, has pleaded guilty to four criminal charges before a federal court in Manhattan, New York.

Cohen-Pavon admitted to manipulating the market price of CEL, the primary cryptocurrency issued by bankruptcy digital asset lender Celsius.

The ruling on Sep. 13 was issued by U.S. District Judge John Koeltl, according to Reuters.

Following his guilty plea, Cohen-Pavon’s sentencing was set for Dec. 11, 2024.

The former executive was indicted in July 2024 while federal prosecutors charged Celsius founder Alex Mashinshky with fraud and conspiracy. 

Attorneys from the Justice Department alleged that Mashinsky conspired with Cohen-Pavon to artificially inflate CEL’s price and mislead investors. Prosecutors also said the ex-Celsius boss defrauded customers and lied about the company’s finances.

A report from an independent court-appointed examiner found that Celsius, under Mashinsky, operated akin to a ponzi scheme. 

Records released during the company’s bankruptcy proceeding in 2022 also found that several executives, including the former CEO, withdrew millions from Celsius accounts shortly before the company filed bankruptcy papers.

Mashinsky was arrested and later released.

A court set his bail at $40 million and the Department of Justice (DoJ) froze several of his assets including corporate assets at banking heavyweight Goldman Sachs.

Regulators, including the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), have sued Mashinsky, alleging law violations.

New York’s Attorney General Letitia James also accused the Celsius founder of breaking state rules. A court ordered Mashinsky to respond to the lawsuit on Aug. 5.

Mashinsky has pleaded not guilty or denied the charges against him for his role in Celsius’s collapse. His lawyers asked a court to dismiss the FTC’s case against Mashinsky, claiming that their client was wrongly accused.

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