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Which meant that Cotten was not really who he said he was either. The chat group Quadriga Uncovered has nearly members, many of them creditors who use the forum to discuss details of the claims process and share revelations and theories about the case.

The chat is also frequented by journalists, detectives from the FBI and RCMP, and several of the targets of the ongoing criminal investigations, including Patryn, whose exact whereabouts have been unknown for about a year. In his comments´┐Żboth in the group chat and in a private chat´┐Żhe has minimized his involvement in Quadriga and declines to speak in detail about his past. But it was his past that, early on, became the focus of the Quadriga investigation. Patryn made people uncomfortable.

He had seemed to appear in Vancouver out of thin air. They were excited. They usually did the outreaching; nobody had reached out to them before. Patryn came to the next meeting. Hi, he said. Or Michael from Italy. But it came from a place of organization´┐Żhe knew what he was doing. Patryn was described as ostentatiously secretive´┐Ża trait not uncommon in cryptocurrency circles´┐Żand made vague allusions to a shadowy past and underworld connections. He was sturdy and muscular, with blackwork tattoos and a face that in repose seemed to glower.

On Facebook he posed with a tiger, a lion, behind the wheel of a Lamborghini, straddling an ATV in a desert. Friends say he spoke of an emotionally absent father, manipulative family members, his obsessive-compulsive tendencies.

He saw himself as an enforcer´┐Żof rules, of integrity, of loyalty. He seemed lonely. When Patryn told a stupid joke that nobody found funny, Cotten would burst into wild laughter. They were an odd pair. They traced the relationship back to , to a dingy warren of a website called TalkGold.

Gerald Cotten may have had a sophisticated grasp of cryptocurrency, but his expertise´┐Żhis formal training´┐Żlay in the art of the confidence game. TalkGold was a Ponzi clearinghouse, where blind faith and curdled cynicism engaged in a demonic rumba.

TalkGold was run by twins Edward and Brian Krassenstein until , when agents from the Office of Homeland Security seized their files and froze their assets but never charged them with a crime.

Subsequently the brothers would gain Twitter notoriety for their incessant attacks on Donald Trump before they were shut down for operating fake accounts and purchasing followers. Patryn joined TalkGold on April 3, , the year the site launched. In one of his first posts he boasted of earning 30 percent monthly returns in HYIP investments.

Cotten opened his account three months later, shortly after his 15th birthday. Cotten tried to scam Patryn; Patryn tried to counter-scam Cotten. Cotten was a quick study. We do not invest in stocks, bonds, shares, precious metals or antiques. All I will say is that we will generate your return and that we are not what is called a ponzi or pyramid scheme. In isolation this might be written off as teenage hijinks´┐Żor at most light fraud.

Patryn, though six years older than Cotten, was only Both men soon graduated, however. In October , TalkGold members began to debate whether Patryn might in fact be Omar Dhanani, one of 28 suspects who had been arrested by the U.

Secret Service in a global sting operation targeting an online marketplace for stolen credit card information and forged documents. Upon pleading guilty to conspiring to transfer stolen identification documents, he was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison. After his release in , he was deported to Canada. In a gambit of either flagrant carelessness or irrepressible egotism, Dhanani officially changed his name to the pseudonym he had used in his online criminal ventures, first to Omar Patryn and later to Michael Patryn.

The most successful of these was Midas Gold, incorporated in early It served as an independent payment processor for Liberty Reserve: a digital currency that was operated by an American in Costa Rica and used by drug cartels, human traffickers, child pornographers, and Ponzis to launder money. Midas Gold was an intermediary between Liberty Reserve and its traders, transferring cash into digital currency and back again, ensuring that no centralized record of clients existed.

In its registration documents, Midas Gold listed as its contact gerald. Midas Gold, which had begun to accept Bitcoin, was seized too. By that point, however, a new Gerald Cotten venture was already six months old. The Quadriga Fund was an HYIP that claimed to invest in venture capital projects and foreign currency exchange markets; it could be funded with Liberty Reserve and Bitcoin, using payment processors operated by Patryn.

A quadriga is a chariot yoked to four horses abreast. Quadriga Fund claimed to be operated by four unnamed investment managers. In October , Cotten placed a job posting on an online forum, BlackHatWorld, that marketed frauds and stolen goods. If Quadriga was conceived as a scam, what kind of scam was it? Most HYIPs, including those previously operated by Cotten, were exit scams: Ponzis that, after reaching a critical volume, abruptly close up shop.

In some exits, the operator simply vanishes with the funds. More commonly, however, he will blame external forces a meddlesome bank that freezes its accounts , provide fragmentary refunds, and equivocate until its investors give up hope. The delay tactic is more successful than might be expected, since customers of HYIPs understand, on some fundamental level, that promises of outsized returns are too good to be true; besides, there was always another outrageous bargain a few clicks away.

The same blind faith that attracts the marks also drives them away. Some of the early visitors to the Vancouver Quadriga office even thought the exchange was just a show. Was Quadriga built to last, in other words, or built to self-destruct?

It was not built, in its early days, to make money. Perhaps´┐Żthis scenario goes´┐ŻCotten believed that the cryptocurrency bull market would continue indefinitely, leading to higher trading volumes and profits; Cotten would have forced Patryn out, knowing that with intensified public scrutiny, his past would become a liability.

This would have been a startling about-face; in the early days, those who knew them believed that the company belonged to Patryn, with Cotten serving as a front man.

Gerald had a clean record, he could speak to the masses, while Michael operated the back end. Gerry and Alex [Hanin, a web developer] created and ran Quadriga, with Gerry running operations. After hearing that Patryn had been bragging all over Vancouver about his talent for laundering money, Mueller unearthed the connection to Dhanani. Nobody followed up with him.

He figured that Dhanani had friends in the underworld and in federal law enforcement. Among those Mueller warned was Amber Scott, an anti-money-laundering expert at a compliance firm in Toronto called Outlier Solutions. She told clients and friends to avoid Quadriga. But when she met Cotten at the Toronto Bitcoin hub Decentral, she found him funny and sweet. She believed in him. She decided that his involvement might mean that Quadriga was legitimate after all.

She appeared with him, and even introduced him, at conferences. There was also the fact that these were Canadian people, Canadian companies.

She froze and said something about having to shampoo her cats. Cotten flushed. He never mentioned Patryn in her presence again. The little brother under the thumb finally grew some balls. That was our perception, at least. In the fall of , Bitcoin began its wild rise.

But it was too much too fast: The young, inexperienced cryptocurrency purist was overwhelmed, beset by coding errors, scrutiny from banks, incompetent contractors, and crooked payment processors.

He had to resort to increasingly questionable practices in a desperate effort to salvage his dream. If you blur your eyes, this narrative´┐ŻGerry Tries to Make Good´┐Żnearly coheres. Far more likely is the narrative of Gerry the Royal Fuckup.

In this version of the story, scams beget scams and incompetence snowballs into recklessness and squander. The public bid was a last-ditch effort to salvage a flailing Ponzi, exploiting positive press and public sympathy to bilk money from investors.

He also created dozens of false trading accounts to stimulate trading volume on the platform´┐Ża fact he even disclosed in the filings. He neglected to disclose, however, that he filled those fake accounts with invented funds, trading counterfeit Bitcoin for real Bitcoin and Canadian and American dollars. When he did file, he claimed no income from Quadriga. Cotten provided withdrawals manually, seeming to give preference to the customers who complained loudest in public forums.

He sent cash, in paper bags and shoeboxes, to coffee shops, laundromats, and pool halls. He also accepted cash deposits. A year before his death he sent a colleague a photograph taken in the kitchen of his Kelowna home. On the polished granite island are a vase of pink roses, the discarded lid of an ice cream carton, a copy of National Geographic, and dozens of dictionary-thick, rubber-banded stacks of Canadian currency in crisp 20s, 50s, and s.

Still Cotten was not directly responsible for all of his troubles. Because Canadian banks refused to accept cryptocurrency businesses as clients, Quadriga had to rely on third-party processors, which levied outrageous fees and in some cases stole funds outright.

Patryn, Jennifer Robertson, and at least a couple of other Quadriga contractors each operated their own payment processing firms´┐Ża significant conflict of interest, though not illegal.

Cotten, it turned out, had transferred the funds into personal accounts on competitor exchanges. At least some of those accounts had also been emptied. On one particular margin account, he conducted 67, individual trades alone, placing enormous bets on fledgling currencies like Dogecoin, OmiseGO, and Zcash.

In Cotten spoke publicly of moving currencies between exchanges to take advantage of arbitrage opportunities. It was the behavior of a doomed gambler employing the martingale strategy, successively doubling down in a desperate effort to get back to zero, until he had dug a hole so deep that he could only be buried inside it.

Then he flew to India, where things managed to get even worse. Call it the Mastermind Theory. It begins with a few findings that do not fit neatly into the Royal Fuckup narrative. Cotten had mentioned having a safe bolted to the rafters in the attic of his home in which he had stored the passwords to his various cryptocurrency accounts. After learning of his death, one of his contractors immediately went to the house and searched for it. He found the place in the attic where four holes had been drilled through the rafters.

But the safe was gone. There were rumors of other employees taking similar trips. In this way Cotten could have stowed away a fortune in foreign bank accounts in preparation for a grand exit.

What if the furious trading on other exchanges near the end of his life was not careless but calculated? It is theoretically possible to conduct high-volume trades in such a way as to launder funds, provided that the trades are exotic enough to ensure that the losses accrue to another account that Cotten, or an associate, controls.

The RCMP and the FBI have refused to comment, but some of their interview subjects have gotten the impression that they believe Cotten might not be dead. The RCMP, which has jurisdiction over the case, has thus far not done so.

The plan, from the beginning, would be to keep the con going as long as possible before vanishing with the money. Cotten built his career on the insight that most people are willing to believe most of what they are told most of the time. Gerry the Mastermind would count on the world believing he was reckless, greedy, and dead. He would count on most people to forget all about him.

Guggenheim Partners Chief Investment Officer Scott Minerd, a top Wall Street financier who made waves in crypto markets for his ever-shifting calls on bitcoin's price , died Wednesday after a heart attack at the age of The firm announced his death in a statement Thursday.

He was a regular presence on the financial-news cable network CNBC. According to the statement, he had become the public speaker for Guggenheim, along with serving as a senior leader and a mentor. Among investment executives in traditional finance, Minerd was notoriously willing to venture predictions on the bitcoin BTC price, some of them quite extreme, and typically with mixed success.

As recently as last week, he told Bloomberg Television that there was "another shoe to drop" from last month's collapse of Sam Bankman-Fried's FTX crypto exchange. Crypto was obviously something that is crazy. You never knew you needed these ´┐Ż but you absolutely do, and they're all on sale. Believe it or not, one of them even converts into a bed!

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But Quadriga's troubles didn't start with missing coins. The company's liquidity problems began months earlier. The company says it also has millions in bank drafts it has been unable to deposit because banks have been unwilling to accept them.

Ms Robertson's affidavit to the court included photos showing stacks of bank drafts placed on a kitchen stove. Those banking disputes contributed to a "severe liquidity crunch" at the company, with frustrated users facing delays and difficulties trying to access funds.

In photos and interviews, Cotten comes across as a clean-cut business school graduate who tended to favour the casual shirts and jeans uniform of a tech entrepreneur. In a statement, Quadriga called him a "visionary leader" who was in India for the opening an orphanage for children in need when he died.

His friend Alex Salkeld described Cotten as a helpful, easy-going young man keen to contribute to the community of cryptocurrency enthusiasts. Mr Salkeld said once a week Vancouver Bitcoin Co-Op members would all head over to the Quadriga's then-offices "and just talk Bitcoin". Like others at the time, he said Cotten saw Bitcoin as a technology with the potential to change the world - a virtual currency free of governments and the banking system. Mr Salkeld said that since Cotten died, those who knew him have been going back-and-forth over how he could possibly have failed to have a contingency plan in place.

But amid rampant talk online about possible fraud related to the missing coins, Mr Salkeld said that, to him, "it's looking like a tragic series of unfortunate events strung together in a really unlucky way".

Cotten's last will and testament also gives some hints as to his life and assets. The document, signed shortly before his ill-fated trip to India, shows he appointed Ms Robertson as executor of the estate and left her the bulk of his property. It offers some detail into those assets: a Lexus, an airplane - he was an amateur pilot - a sailboat, and real estate in the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia and British Columbia.

He even planned for the care of his two chihuahuas, Nitro and Gully. There are many who are suspicious of Quadriga's story and who doubt claims that Cotten had the only key to reserves valued in the tens of millions of dollars. Online sleuths and industry experts have analysed the public transaction history of Quadriga wallets - which are used to store, send, and receive cryptocurrency - and have raised the possibility that the cold storage reserves might not exist at all. That has led to concern there is more at play than poor business practices and internal company chaos in the wake of Cotten's death.

Others have wondered whether Cotten faked his own death and that this is all part of an "exit scam" to abscond with the funds. Amid those rumours, Ms Robertson's affidavit included a copy of statement of death from a funeral home in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The hospital in Jaipur where Cotten was treated also released a statement detailing the medical interventions he received prior to his death.

His widow says she has received death threats and "slanderous comments" online since Quadriga publicly announced its troubles. An independent third party monitor has also been appointed to oversee the court proceedings, and is currently in possession of Cotten's laptop and other devices. In an online message to its users, Quadriga said it filed for creditor protection to give it time to ensure the future viability of the company. It also admitted it is in "the early stages of a long process and [does] not have all the answers right now".

According to court filings, Quadriga is also investigating whether some of the cryptocurrency could be secured on other exchanges and it said it's considering selling the platform to cover its debts. A number of affected users, including Tong Zou, have retained lawyers and are seeking representation in the proceedings. Meanwhile, Canada's main securities regulator, the Ontario Securities Commission, has confirmed it looking into Quadriga "given the potential harm to Ontario investors".

By Jessica Murphy. Image source, Reuters. Broken representations of the Bitcoin virtual currency. At 15 years old, Cotten put his first pyramid scheme into motion. By the time Cotten and Patryn launched their company, Quadriga ´┐Ż promoting it as a cheap and easy way for people to buy, sell and trade crypto at a time when it was an ordeal for the uninitiated ´┐Ż in , they were already well versed in the dark arts. Talk to them about the future of money, throw in a few buzz words and they believe any garbage.

Patryn would soon split after an alleged spat about whether or not to go public. Investors could not get in their money quickly enough. And Cotten made it easy. Rather than leaving customers to maintain their own digital wallets with character codes ´┐Ż known as private keys ´┐Ż that were impossible to remember and disastrous if lost, Quadriga often held onto the crypto for them.

That would later be a problem. She added that cashing out was often problematic for clients. Banks did not want to deal with crypto companies. But all of that happened during the good times, when crypto was enjoying its upward surge. One year later, in , the party had temporarily fizzled out. Gerry did everything [for the company] from his laptop.

The couple jetted, often via private planes, to places like Paris, Hawaii and Morocco. In December , Cotten and Jennifer traveled to India for what was said to be a honeymoon. Before leaving, according to Vanity Fair, he bragged about money going further in India than it does in Canada.

On Dec. But blood work showed Cotten had developed septic shock. Within 24 hours, he suffered three heart attacks. The last one killed him. On Jan. This was for good reason. Among the hard-hit was Tong Zou, who works in technology and put money in Quadriga. I put myself into a deep hole and the only way to dig out of it was to sell my house.

Some have even questioned whether or not Cotten really died. In fact, jilted investors have requested to have the body exhumed. According to the film, Cotten was embalmed in the anatomy department of a Jaipur medical college, no autopsy was done and the body got shipped back to Canada.

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WebJul 4, ´┐Ż´┐Ż Let's take a look at five coins that have failed. 1. OneCoin (ONE) Launched in , OneCoin was one of the early crypto frauds. Its founder, the self-named . WebApr 18, ´┐Ż´┐Ż Last modified on Mon EDT. The Beanstalk cryptocurrency has been stripped of reserves valued at more than $m (?m) in . WebFeb 20, ´┐Ż´┐Ż Police presumed Jung suffered a heart attack while sleeping, the report said. A Wall Street Journal report said Jung, 52, "died from some unknown cause." A .