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'Trust No One' is a new Netflix documentary that explores the mysterious death of 30-year-old Gerald Cotten, the founder of Canada's largest bitcoin exchange who died suddenly while on his honeymoon in India in 2018. He took to his grave, $215 million of investor's money

'Trust No One' is a new Netflix documentary that explores the mysterious death of 30-year-old Gerald Cotten, the founder of Canada's largest bitcoin exchange who died suddenly while on his honeymoon in India in 2018. He took to his grave, $215 million of investor's money

‘Trust No One’ is a new Netflix documentary that explores the mysterious death of 30-year-old Gerald Cotten, the founder of Canada’s largest bitcoin exchange who died suddenly while on his honeymoon in India in 2018. He took to his grave, $215 million of investor’s money

A seemingly healthy 30-year-old cryptocurrency entrepreneur suddenly drops dead on his honeymoon in India, taking with him the passwords that access $215 million in investor’s money. A shoddy death certificate precedes a frantic race to embalm his body without an autopsy.

The odd circumstances surrounding his untimely death— including the fact that he signed a will just nine days before his demise— fueled suspicions that Gerald Cotten, CEO of Canada’s largest crypto exchange had faked the whole thing.

Proving that truth really is stranger than fiction, a new Netflix documentary, ‘Trust No One: The Hunt for the Crypto King’ chronicles a group of investigators and internet sleuths attempt to unravel the mystery surrounding the suspicious death of the bitcoin millionaire. It’s a saga where answers lead to more questions in a scandal that captivated the internet. 

In the wild and unregulated world of decentralized finance, one rule remains tantamount: Trust No One.  

So alarm bells went off in January 2019 when QuadrigaCX’s website went offline shortly after Cotten’s death was announced on Facebook – effectively ending the ability for users to withdraw funds they had set aside for pensions, college tuition and mortgages. Hundreds of millions of dollars had vanished overnight.

‘I just kept saying, “Oh crap, oh crap, oh crap,”’ recalled Tong Zou, a former QuadrigaCX client who lost $400,000. ‘I felt like I was having a heart attack.’   

Suddenly sensational theories swirled around the internet that the Bitcoin millionaire had faked his own death, run off with the money, and was living under an assumed identity abroad. Other theories suggested that he was poisoned by his wife or that he was bumped off by mobsters. 

Conspiracies turned into circumstantial evidence when users discovered that Cotten, and Quadriga’s co-founder, Michael Patryn had checkered pasts in Ponzi schemes, money laundering, identity theft and exit scams.    

To this day $169 million is missing. Prompting investigators and victims to question, who is Gerald Cotten? Is he a deceptive criminal mastermind who pulled off one of the greatest exit scams in history? Or is he merely the Pokemon card playing crypto-geek whose early demise came auspiciously as the walls began to close on his crypto Ponzi scheme?  

Cotten was a geeky computer nerd who founded QuadrigaCX in 2013 when bitcoin was still in its infancy. Similar to websites like Robinhood or E* Trade for stocks, Quadriga allowed users to trade dollars into bitcoin and vice versa. By 2017, bitcoin's value skyrocketed to $20,000 and Cotten was a multimillionaire who enjoyed the good life. Secretly, Cotten was running a Ponzi scheme that embezzled investor's funds to fund his lavish lifestyle and gamble on speculative investments. His story unraveled after he died unexpectedly in 2018

Cotten was a geeky computer nerd who founded QuadrigaCX in 2013 when bitcoin was still in its infancy. Similar to websites like Robinhood or E* Trade for stocks, Quadriga allowed users to trade dollars into bitcoin and vice versa. By 2017, bitcoin's value skyrocketed to $20,000 and Cotten was a multimillionaire who enjoyed the good life. Secretly, Cotten was running a Ponzi scheme that embezzled investor's funds to fund his lavish lifestyle and gamble on speculative investments. His story unraveled after he died unexpectedly in 2018

Cotten was a geeky computer nerd who founded QuadrigaCX in 2013 when bitcoin was still in its infancy. Similar to websites like Robinhood or E* Trade for stocks, Quadriga allowed users to trade dollars into bitcoin and vice versa. By 2017, bitcoin’s value skyrocketed to $20,000 and Cotten was a multimillionaire who enjoyed the good life. Secretly, Cotten was running a Ponzi scheme that embezzled investor’s funds to fund his lavish lifestyle and gamble on speculative investments. His story unraveled after he died unexpectedly in 2018

Quadriga clients were stunned to discover that the 30-year-old CEO was the the only person with access to the passwords of digital wallets that contained $215 million in cash and cryptocurrency belonging to them. The mysterious circumstances surrounding Cotten's demise fueled speculation that he faked his death and ran off with the money. Later, a probe led by the Ontario Securities Commission discovered that the cold wallets were empty, and in fact Cotten had embezzled the funds. 'Trust No One' airing tonight on Netflix follows a group of jilted Quadriga investors who dig into the dubious death of the crypto-wunderkind and their missing millions

Quadriga clients were stunned to discover that the 30-year-old CEO was the the only person with access to the passwords of digital wallets that contained $215 million in cash and cryptocurrency belonging to them. The mysterious circumstances surrounding Cotten's demise fueled speculation that he faked his death and ran off with the money. Later, a probe led by the Ontario Securities Commission discovered that the cold wallets were empty, and in fact Cotten had embezzled the funds. 'Trust No One' airing tonight on Netflix follows a group of jilted Quadriga investors who dig into the dubious death of the crypto-wunderkind and their missing millions

Quadriga clients were stunned to discover that the 30-year-old CEO was the the only person with access to the passwords of digital wallets that contained $215 million in cash and cryptocurrency belonging to them. The mysterious circumstances surrounding Cotten’s demise fueled speculation that he faked his death and ran off with the money. Later, a probe led by the Ontario Securities Commission discovered that the cold wallets were empty, and in fact Cotten had embezzled the funds. ‘Trust No One’ airing tonight on Netflix follows a group of jilted Quadriga investors who dig into the dubious death of the crypto-wunderkind and their missing millions

Cotten died suddenly from gastroenteritis while on his honeymoon in India. Sparking more suspicion was the fact that just four days before leaving for India, Cotten filed a detailed will that left everything to Robertson: his $12 million real estate portfolio, a Lexus sports car, his Cessna aircraft, bank accounts and even frequent flyer points. He set aside $100,000 for the care of their Chihuahuas, but curiously made no mention of the external hard drives that stored stored most of Quadriga's funds.

Cotten died suddenly from gastroenteritis while on his honeymoon in India. Sparking more suspicion was the fact that just four days before leaving for India, Cotten filed a detailed will that left everything to Robertson: his $12 million real estate portfolio, a Lexus sports car, his Cessna aircraft, bank accounts and even frequent flyer points. He set aside $100,000 for the care of their Chihuahuas, but curiously made no mention of the external hard drives that stored stored most of Quadriga's funds.

Cotten’s late wife, Jennifer Robertson (center) became the focus of the investigation when it was discovered that Cotten, suspiciously drafted a will that left all his assets to her, just three days before embarking on the trip. Some people speculated that she was involved in the scam, others suggested that she poisoned Cotten for her own financial gain. ‘Jenny was just as duped as everyone else, if not more,’ her sister told the documentary. ‘She still has to question what she knows for sure about the person that she chose to spend the rest of her life with’

‘Something is off.’ A death that ‘haunted’ doctors and  rush to produce a death certificate: 

Tong Zou knew something was terribly wrong when two months after he requested to withdraw money from his Quadriga accounts, the funds still hadn’t showed up in his checking account. The software engineer from San Francisco was not alone in this problem, hundreds of other customers were also facing the same dilemma.

‘I started my withdrawal request around late October 2018,’ said Zou in the documentary. Despite numerous attempts to reach Quadriga, he still hadn’t heard anything through January 2019.  ‘I started to panic, this is my entire savings built through tens years of work and selling my apartment. And I just prayed to god.’ 

Things went from bad to worse on January 14, 2019 when Quadriga announced on its Facebook page that Gerry Cotton, the 30-year-old whiz kid who helmed Canada’s largest crypto exchange, had died unexpectedly during his honeymoon to India.

On November 30, three days after signing his will, Cotten and Robertson landed in New Delhi on a tourist visa. Robertson posted the couple's photos in front of the Taj Mahal in Agra on her Instagram. The account has since been deleted

On November 30, three days after signing his will, Cotten and Robertson landed in New Delhi on a tourist visa. Robertson posted the couple's photos in front of the Taj Mahal in Agra on her Instagram. The account has since been deleted

 On November 30, three days after signing his will, Cotten and Robertson landed in New Delhi on a tourist visa. Robertson posted the couple’s photos in front of the Taj Mahal in Agra on her Instagram. The account has since been deleted

‘It is with a heavy heart that we announce the sudden passing of Gerald Cotten, co-founder and CEO of QuadrigaCX. Gerry died due to complications with Crohn’s disease on December 9, 2018 while travelling in India, where he was opening an orphanage to provide a home and safe refuge for children in need.’ 

Shortly after the death notice, the company made a second announcement that was even more shocking than the first: Cotten was the only person with access to the digital wallets containing $215 million in bitcoins and cash belonging to Quadriga users. 

Quadriga suspended trading and filed for bankruptcy. 

According to an affidavit given by his late wife Jennifer Robertson, Quadriga could not pay-out its investors because she did not have the recovery keys for the company’s ‘cold’ wallets — a system in which cryptocurrencies are stored offline to avoid hacking. Nor did she have the passcode to Cotten’s encrypted laptop, ‘despite repeated and diligent searches’ throughout their home hoping to find them written down somewhere. 

The news astounded the cryptocurrency community. In a world where ‘Trust No One’ is the reigning principle of Bitcoin, the second was ‘always have a contingency plan.’

‘My initial reaction is bul****. This is bul****,’ said Ali Mousavi, a jilted Quadriga customer who lost $70,000. 

Most cryptocurrency exchanges keep a small percentage of their holdings in ‘hot wallets’ which act more like a checkbook or debit card to facilitate fast trades. The majority of coins however, are saved in offline ‘cold wallets,’ that are protected by an impossibly long, randomly generated private key. Unlike normal bank passwords, there is no recourse if you loose the key to your cold wallet, the money is lost forever.   

According to Vanity Fair, Cotten claimed in a 2014 interview that he wrote his passwords on paper and locked them in a safe deposit box at a bank, ‘because that’s the best way to keep coins secure.’ Later he joked that he had a ‘safe bolted to the rafters in the attic.’

Shortly before his demise, Cotten told close friends and family that Quadriga had a ‘dead man’s switch’ that would send them access to the exchange’s funds in the case of his disappearance or death. None of this was true.

The bizarre circumstances surrounding his death only fueled skepticism. According to Canada’s Globe and Mail, the newlyweds were nine days into their honeymoon when the couple arrived at the $932-a-night Oberoi Rajvilas hotel in Jaipur on December 8, 2018. Soon after checking in, Cotten complained of acute stomach pain and was driven to a nearby hospital where he was diagnosed with traveler’s diarrhea. 24 hours later, he was dead.   

Despite living a lavish lifestyle, friends told Netflix that Cotten was a regular 'button down, jeans sort of guy.' One friend described the computer geek as 'always laughing, friendly, positive and upbeat.' Adding, 'He doesn't come off as a criminal mastermind'

Despite living a lavish lifestyle, friends told Netflix that Cotten was a regular 'button down, jeans sort of guy.' One friend described the computer geek as 'always laughing, friendly, positive and upbeat.' Adding, 'He doesn't come off as a criminal mastermind'

Despite living a lavish lifestyle, friends told Netflix that Cotten was a regular ‘button down, jeans sort of guy.’ One friend described the computer geek as ‘always laughing, friendly, positive and upbeat.’ Adding, ‘He doesn’t come off as a criminal mastermind’

Cotten was an early evangelist of bitcoin who believed in its promises of decentralization and transparency. Basically, 'he was a computer nerd who had entered the right business at the right time,' said Vanity Fair. Most cryptocurrency exchanges keep a small percentage of their holdings in 'hot wallets' which act more like a debit card to facilitate fast trades. The majority of coins are stored offline in 'cold wallets' that are protected by private key. Unlike normal bank passwords, there is no recourse if you loose the digital key to your cold wallet, the money is lost forever. Shortly before his death, Cotten told close friends and family that Quadriga had a 'dead man's switch' that would send them access to the exchange's funds in the case of his disappearance or death

Cotten was an early evangelist of bitcoin who believed in its promises of decentralization and transparency. Basically, 'he was a computer nerd who had entered the right business at the right time,' said Vanity Fair. Most cryptocurrency exchanges keep a small percentage of their holdings in 'hot wallets' which act more like a debit card to facilitate fast trades. The majority of coins are stored offline in 'cold wallets' that are protected by private key. Unlike normal bank passwords, there is no recourse if you loose the digital key to your cold wallet, the money is lost forever. Shortly before his death, Cotten told close friends and family that Quadriga had a 'dead man's switch' that would send them access to the exchange's funds in the case of his disappearance or death

Cotten was an early evangelist of bitcoin who believed in its promises of decentralization and transparency. Basically, ‘he was a computer nerd who had entered the right business at the right time,’ said Vanity Fair. Most cryptocurrency exchanges keep a small percentage of their holdings in ‘hot wallets’ which act more like a debit card to facilitate fast trades. The majority of coins are stored offline in ‘cold wallets’ that are protected by private key. Unlike normal bank passwords, there is no recourse if you loose the digital key to your cold wallet, the money is lost forever. Shortly before his death, Cotten told close friends and family that Quadriga had a ‘dead man’s switch’ that would send them access to the exchange’s funds in the case of his disappearance or death

Among those interviewed for the doc was a man who lost 'north of six figures' and who goes by QCXINT (which stands for Quadriga Intelligence). He is responsible for spearheading the amateur investigation that took place on Twitter, Reddit, and Telegram. He wears a mask and disguises his voice to protect his identity

Among those interviewed for the doc was a man who lost 'north of six figures' and who goes by QCXINT (which stands for Quadriga Intelligence). He is responsible for spearheading the amateur investigation that took place on Twitter, Reddit, and Telegram. He wears a mask and disguises his voice to protect his identity

Among those interviewed for the doc was a man who lost ‘north of six figures’ and who goes by QCXINT (which stands for Quadriga Intelligence). He is responsible for spearheading the amateur investigation that took place on Twitter, Reddit, and Telegram. He wears a mask and disguises his voice to protect his identity

Tong Zou lost $400,000 in the Quadriga scam. 'I started my withdrawal request around late October 2018,' said Zou in the documentary. Despite numerous attempts to reach Quadriga, he still hadn't heard anything through January 2019. 'I started to panic, this is my entire savings built through tens years of work and selling my apartment. And I just prayed to god'

Tong Zou lost $400,000 in the Quadriga scam. 'I started my withdrawal request around late October 2018,' said Zou in the documentary. Despite numerous attempts to reach Quadriga, he still hadn't heard anything through January 2019. 'I started to panic, this is my entire savings built through tens years of work and selling my apartment. And I just prayed to god'

Tong Zou lost $400,000 in the Quadriga scam. ‘I started my withdrawal request around late October 2018,’ said Zou in the documentary. Despite numerous attempts to reach Quadriga, he still hadn’t heard anything through January 2019. ‘I started to panic, this is my entire savings built through tens years of work and selling my apartment. And I just prayed to god’

A report by Cotten’s attending physician, Dr Jayant Sharma, revealed that he suffered from Crohn’s disease, a chronic ailment that causes inflammation of the digestive tract. His wife later told a court affidavit that Cotten had been diagnosed with the disease when he was 24.  

His condition quickly deteriorated the following afternoon, blood work indicated septic shock. Cotten went into cardiac arrest twice and was twice resuscitated but doctors were unable to revive him a third time. By 7:26 pm, the 30-year-old crypto-wunderkind was declared dead, officially from ‘complications of Crohn’s disease.’ But the gastroenterologist who treated Cotten told the The Globe and Mail that his death haunted him. ‘We are not sure about the diagnosis,’ he said. No autopsy was performed.  

The rapid decline of Cotten’s vitals are consistent with what a patient with the disease might experience, though according to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, a person is unlikely to die from it.

What followed next was a macabre story of how Cotten’s body was shuffled between hospitals in Jaipur for an embalming. Details, at best, remain hazy. 

Quadrigss creditors raised concern over the authenticity of Cotten’s death certificate which misspelled his name as ‘Cottan,’ – especially because forged death certificates and other documents are relatively easy to obtain in India 

According to The Globe and Mail, standard procedure in India mandates that bodies are to be embalmed before being transported. In Cotten’s case, his body was transferred directly to the hotel. 

From there, security guards working for the luxury 5 star hotel attempted to send his corpse to the Mahatma Gandhi Medical College & Hospital (MGMC) for embalming but the hospital turned down the request. A senior doctor at the hospital later told The Economic Times, on condition of anonymity: ‘They told me they worked for a hotel. I outright denied. We don’t accept bodies if they are not transferred directly from the hospital. Something is wrong.’

Cotten’s remains were then taken to a government hospital where the doctors were less inquisitive and an embalming certificate was duly issued. On December 10, the day after Cotten’s death, Robertson checked out of the hotel and flew home with her husband’s body. His closed casket funeral was four days later.

Quadriga kept his death secret for a month before making it public, which immediately fueled skepticism. 

‘This is not right, something is off,’ said Mousavi to Netflix. He is one of the $115,000 users that were bilked in the Quadriga scam.  

Sparking more suspicion was the fact that just three days before leaving for India, Cotten filed a detailed will that left everything to Robertson: his $12 million real estate portfolio, a Lexus sports car, his Cessna aircraft, a 50-foot sailboat, bank accounts and even frequent flyer points. He set aside $100,000 for the care of their Chihuahuas, but curiously made no mention of the external hard drives that stored stored most of Quadriga’s funds. 

Quadriga struggled to fulfill withdrawal requests when the bitcoin bubble burst in 2018. The market was in freefall and investors were looking to cash out their cryptocurrency to staunch losses. Soon the withdrawal requests outnumbered the deposits and Cotten didn't have enough funds to pay everyone out. 'The enemy of a Ponzi scheme is people cashing out' explained Daniel Tourangeau, a forensic accountant to Netflix

Quadriga struggled to fulfill withdrawal requests when the bitcoin bubble burst in 2018. The market was in freefall and investors were looking to cash out their cryptocurrency to staunch losses. Soon the withdrawal requests outnumbered the deposits and Cotten didn't have enough funds to pay everyone out. 'The enemy of a Ponzi scheme is people cashing out' explained Daniel Tourangeau, a forensic accountant to Netflix

Quadriga struggled to fulfill withdrawal requests when the bitcoin bubble burst in 2018. The market was in freefall and investors were looking to cash out their cryptocurrency to staunch losses. Soon the withdrawal requests outnumbered the deposits and Cotten didn’t have enough funds to pay everyone out. ‘The enemy of a Ponzi scheme is people cashing out’ explained Daniel Tourangeau, a forensic accountant to Netflix 

Cotten's official cause of death was due to 'complications of Crohn's disease' - an ailment that doesn't commonly cause mortality. The gastroenterologist who treated the conman told the The Globe and Mail that his death continued to haunt him. He said the conclusion was based on 'one of the best guesses of what took a 30-year-old man from a luxury hotel to his deathbed in little more than 24 hours.' No autopsy was performed. Investigators raised concern over the authenticity of Cotten's death certificate which misspells his name as 'Cottan,' especially because forged death certificates and other documents are relatively easy to obtain in India

Cotten's official cause of death was due to 'complications of Crohn's disease' - an ailment that doesn't commonly cause mortality. The gastroenterologist who treated the conman told the The Globe and Mail that his death continued to haunt him. He said the conclusion was based on 'one of the best guesses of what took a 30-year-old man from a luxury hotel to his deathbed in little more than 24 hours.' No autopsy was performed. Investigators raised concern over the authenticity of Cotten's death certificate which misspells his name as 'Cottan,' especially because forged death certificates and other documents are relatively easy to obtain in India

Cotten’s official cause of death was due to ‘complications of Crohn’s disease’ – an ailment that doesn’t commonly cause mortality. The gastroenterologist who treated the conman told the The Globe and Mail that his death continued to haunt him. He said the conclusion was based on ‘one of the best guesses of what took a 30-year-old man from a luxury hotel to his deathbed in little more than 24 hours.’ No autopsy was performed. Investigators raised concern over the authenticity of Cotten’s death certificate which misspells his name as ‘Cottan,’ especially because forged death certificates and other documents are relatively easy to obtain in India

From Pokémon geek to Ponzi scheme conman and cryptoking millionaire:   

Cotten was an early cryptocurrency evangelist and part of a group that met in restaurants once a week called ‘the Vancouver Bitcoin Co-op.’ He believed that Bitcoin could change the world by challenging traditional forms of banking.

‘Gerry came across friendly, positive, upbeat, he always laughed. I don’t know what Gerry would look like angry,’ Andrew Wagner told the Netflix documentary. Like Cotten, he was also an early disciple of the Bitcoin Co-Op.   

His parents owned an antique store, and he grew up in the quiet suburb of Belleville, ‘The Friendly City,’ a waterfront community two hours north of Toronto that’s best known for its cheddar cheese. 

One former friend described Cotten as a ‘very nerdy’ but brilliant computer kid who struggled to fit in. 

Online, his social handicap didn’t matter. As a teenager, Cotten gravitated toward the dark web where he forged virtual acquaintances in chatrooms and message boards on websites like TalkGold, a now defunct website that promoted shady get-rich-quick gambits, Ponzi schemes, and advice on how to create one’s own scam. 

By the time he was 15, Cotten had already cut his teeth in his own pyramid scheme that he called S&S Investments. It promised returns of up to 150 per cent in just 48 hours. The sham ran for three months before shutting down with investors’ money disappearing. Sound familiar? 

Around this time, Cotten met his future QudrigaCX co-founder, Michael Patryn on the TalkGold forum. Patryn was six years older and had a mysterious past with ties to organized crime. Photos from his now shuttered Facebook page show him posed next to exotic animals, behind the wheel of a Lamborghini and straddling an ATV in a desert.

‘He was like a little brother to me,’ said Patryn. Others described their relationship as sycophantic. ‘The first time I met Gerry was in Mike’s fancy car and Mike was doing all the talking and Gerry would laugh at his not-funny jokes,’ recalled Wagner in the Netflix doc. ‘That is key.’

The bitcoin boom made Cotten fabulously rich. He purchased a $600,000 sailboat, a brand new Cessna aircraft, and amassed a real estate portfolio that included four primary residences, and 14 rental properties throughout Nova Scotia

The bitcoin boom made Cotten fabulously rich. He purchased a $600,000 sailboat, a brand new Cessna aircraft, and amassed a real estate portfolio that included four primary residences, and 14 rental properties throughout Nova Scotia

The bitcoin boom made Cotten fabulously rich. He purchased a $600,000 sailboat, a brand new Cessna aircraft, and amassed a real estate portfolio that included four primary residences, and 14 rental properties throughout Nova Scotia

Internet sleuths featured on ‘Trust No One’ discovered that Patryn’s real name was in fact, Omar Dhanani, a hustler with a criminal record that had previously been arrested in a sting operation for selling stolen credit card information in Southern California. He was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison and was deported to Canada after his release in 2007. 

Meanwhile Cotten continued to run his own succession of schemes throughout those years, during which he also attended an undergraduate honors program at York University’s Schulich School of Business, where he graduated in 2010. 

His oeuvre were ‘exit scams’ – Ponzi schemes that abruptly disappear when they become too big to sustain themselves. Sometimes the fraudster vanishes without a trace, but more often they hem and haw, blame  circumstances outside their control (like banks that freeze their accounts), offer partial cash-outs, and equivocate until investors give up. This tactic would later become de rigueur at Quadriga. 

The two serial scammers co-founded QuadrigaCX in 2013, with a job posting on an online forum that marketed frauds and stolen goods. According to Vanity Fair, they sought ‘a programmer who is familiar with Bitcoin’ to develop a website that would serve as ‘an open market place, like a stock market, where people buy and sell Bitcoin.’  

The platform quickly earned a reputation as the cheapest, fastest and safest way to trade dollars into bitcoin and vice versa. It was the  first crypto exchange to hold a license from FinTRAC, Canada’s anti-money-laundering authority. They installed a bitcoin ATM in its bare-bones Vancouver office (the second of its kind in Canada), and accepted gold as payment that could be dropped off in person. 

When Quaudriga launched in 2013, bitcoin’s value hovered below $100. Fast forward to 2017 and bitcoin skyrocketed to $20,000. That same year, $2 billion was transacted through Quadriga and Cotten took a cut from every transaction. 

'Cotten was fulfilling the requests of whoever was screaming the loudest,' said Daniel Tourangeau to Netflix. Often, he provided withdrawals manually in cash deliveries sent in paper bags and shoeboxes, to coffee shops, laundromats, and pool halls. A year before his death, Cotten sent a colleague a photograph depicting rubber-banded stacks of Canadian dollars on his kitchen counter

'Cotten was fulfilling the requests of whoever was screaming the loudest,' said Daniel Tourangeau to Netflix. Often, he provided withdrawals manually in cash deliveries sent in paper bags and shoeboxes, to coffee shops, laundromats, and pool halls. A year before his death, Cotten sent a colleague a photograph depicting rubber-banded stacks of Canadian dollars on his kitchen counter

‘Cotten was fulfilling the requests of whoever was screaming the loudest,’ said Daniel Tourangeau to Netflix. Often, he provided withdrawals manually in cash deliveries sent in paper bags and shoeboxes, to coffee shops, laundromats, and pool halls. A year before his death, Cotten sent a colleague a photograph depicting rubber-banded stacks of Canadian dollars on his kitchen counter

Cotten co-founded QuadrigaCX in 2013 with Michael Patryn, a man that he met in the early 2000s on dark-web chatrooms. Patryn's real name was Omar Dhanani, a hustler with a criminal record that had previously been arrested in a Secret Service sting operation for selling stolen credit card information. Six years older, Patryn said that Cotten was 'like a little brother.' The business partners split ways in 2016, after the scandal broke, Patryn said: 'I didn't believe that he died when I read about it because of the way it was announced'

Cotten co-founded QuadrigaCX in 2013 with Michael Patryn, a man that he met in the early 2000s on dark-web chatrooms. Patryn's real name was Omar Dhanani, a hustler with a criminal record that had previously been arrested in a Secret Service sting operation for selling stolen credit card information. Six years older, Patryn said that Cotten was 'like a little brother.' The business partners split ways in 2016, after the scandal broke, Patryn said: 'I didn't believe that he died when I read about it because of the way it was announced'

Today Patryn is Vice President of First Merit Bank in Illinois. He admits he 'made some mistakes' when he was young

Today Patryn is Vice President of First Merit Bank in Illinois. He admits he 'made some mistakes' when he was young

Cotten co-founded QuadrigaCX in 2013 with Michael Patryn, a man that he met in the early 2000s on dark-web chatrooms. Patryn’s real name was Omar Dhanani, a hustler with a criminal record that had previously been arrested in a Secret Service sting operation for selling stolen credit card information. Six years older, Patryn said that Cotten was ‘like a little brother.’ The business partners split ways in 2016, after the scandal broke, Patryn said: ‘I didn’t believe that he died when I read about it because of the way it was announced.’ Today Patryn is Vice President of First Merit Bank in Illinois

Quadrigsa was promoted as a cheap, fast and safe way to trade dollars into bitcoin and vice versa. Audio from an old advertisement claimed: 'You'll never have trouble moving funds into and out of your quadriga account.' At the height of its popularity in 2017, Quadriga transacted $2 billion in trades, had 363,000 registered users, and 115,000 open accounts

Quadrigsa was promoted as a cheap, fast and safe way to trade dollars into bitcoin and vice versa. Audio from an old advertisement claimed: 'You'll never have trouble moving funds into and out of your quadriga account.' At the height of its popularity in 2017, Quadriga transacted $2 billion in trades, had 363,000 registered users, and 115,000 open accounts

Quadrigsa was promoted as a cheap, fast and safe way to trade dollars into bitcoin and vice versa. Audio from an old advertisement claimed: ‘You’ll never have trouble moving funds into and out of your quadriga account.’ At the height of its popularity in 2017, Quadriga transacted $2 billion in trades, had 363,000 registered users, and 115,000 open accounts

In the meantime, Patryn had parted ways with Cotten in 2016 as part of a mass exodus that left the company over a disagreement to forgo an IPO. After Cotten’s death, Patryn tried to distance himself from the Quadriga scandal, claiming that he was merely an ‘advisor’ to the company. 

‘Gerry stopped running the company legally and ethically from a filing standpoint after all of the employees, directors and officers left in January 2016,’ he told Vanity Fair. ‘We had no idea about the Ponzi aspect.’

WHAT IS BITCOIN? A LOOK INTO CRYPTOCURRENCY 

 

Bitcoin is a type of cryptocurrency.

Cryptocurrency is a form of digital money designed to be free standing from a central authority like the Federal Reserve bank.

Advocates of crypto are drawn to its promises of decentralization, transparency, speed, and independence from governments and financial institutions.

Cryptocurrency is backed by underlying technology called the ‘blockchain.’ The simplest way to think about it – is as digital ledger, or a spread sheet where one can verify the whole history of transactions.

The safest way to store cryptocurrecy is in a ‘cold wallet,’ which is essentially an external hard drive, disconnected from the internet, that functions like bank vaults.

These ‘cold wallets’ are protected by an impossibly long, randomly generated private key. Most people write the passwords down and store them in a separate safe.

Unlike normal bank passwords, there is no recourse if you loose the key to your cold wallet, the money is lost forever.

 

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The bitcoin boom made Cotten fabulously rich. He purchased a $600,000 sailboat, a brand new Cessna aircraft, and amassed a real estate portfolio that included four primary residences, (one of which was on its own private island). He also purchased 14 rental properties in Nova Scotia, where he owned every house on a cul-de-sac.   

He lived the high life with his soon to be wife, Jennifer Robertson that included exotic vacations around the world. Cotten once bragged that he had traveled to 56 countries, 37 of them with Robertson.  

His longtime pal, Amber Scott, told Netflix how he enjoyed the life of a ‘digital nomad.’ He was in a new country every time she texted – Costa Rica, Iceland, Myanmar. ‘But those were always followed with a ‘don’t mention to anyone where I am’ which is strange,’ she said, alluding to something darker: ‘Maybe that wasn’t just his working from wherever he wanted to be, maybe that was him avoiding something or someone.’   

By 2018, however, their fortunes turned. The bitcoin boom went bust and its value plunged to below $4,000. Quadriga customers were desperate to stanch losses and pull their money out of the exchange.  

Customers began to worry when they noticed withdrawal delays.   

‘In the Fall of 2018, I started getting tons and tons of emails from random Quadriga users saying ‘I cant get my money out,’ recalled Alexandra Posadzki, an investigative reporter for The Globe and Mail.

When she followed up the claims with Cotten, the conman explained that Quadriga was unable to process all the withdrawal requests because the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce had frozen $26 million. A class hallmark of exit scams is to obfuscate and deflect blame on to someone else.

He said ‘really it’s the banks fault that people cant get their money out,’ said Posadzki, who at the time thought it was a plausible explanation.

What unwitting investors had not yet known, is that their money was already gone. Cotten had burned through their cash to fund his lavish lifestyle, and make speculative trades on other crypto exchanges. 

‘Cotten was fulfilling the requests of whoever was screaming the loudest,’ said Daniel Tourangeau, a forensic accountant for the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC). ‘He was really a fireman at that point, extinguishing small fires where he could.’ 

By then, Quadriga had morphed into a Ponzi scheme, said Tourangeau, where new investor funds were being used to pay out old investors who made withdrawal requests. 

In the middle of this tumultuous year, Cotten and Robertson got married. Days before their honeymoon in India, Cotten made out a will, leaving everything to his new wife.

When the widowed wife posted on Quadriga’s Facebook page in January 2019 that her 30-year-old husband was dead— and later that he was the only person with the passcodes to customer funds, the crypto community was abuzz with theories.    

‘Gerry’s alive’ – Internet sleuths launch an amateur investigation: 

Trust No One follows a group of jilted Quadriga creditors who dig into the dubious death of Cotten and their missing millions. They believe that Cotten’s ‘death’ has all trademarks of a classic ‘exit scam’ and that he is still alive, living under an assumed identity. 

‘I immediately was questioning everything about the story,’ said crypto entrepreneur, Taylor Monahan in the doc. ‘I’d suspected that the money might be moving, which would make their entire point moot.’ 

Even Cotten’s former business partner, Michael Patryn, said he ‘didn’t believe that he died’ when he first read the news. 

Monahan began to investigate the cold wallets, which allegedly held millions of investor money in offline storage. ‘I didn’t ever find this pile of money,’ she said.’ 

‘Once I determined that there was no money in the cold storage, that’s when I stopped believing he was dead.’ 

Among those interviewed for the film was QCXINT, a man who says he lost ‘north of six figures’ and is responsible for spearheading the amateur investigation on Twitter, Reddit, and Telegram. 

Before the scandal, Cotten was considered to be a reputable authority on cryptocurrency. He was a well-known and sought-after bitcoin advocate. He often spoke at financial-technology conferences, was a member of the Bitcoin Foundation, and served as an adviser for a nonprofit called the CryptoCurrency Certification Consortium

Before the scandal, Cotten was considered to be a reputable authority on cryptocurrency. He was a well-known and sought-after bitcoin advocate. He often spoke at financial-technology conferences, was a member of the Bitcoin Foundation, and served as an adviser for a nonprofit called the CryptoCurrency Certification Consortium

Before the scandal, Cotten was considered to be a reputable authority on cryptocurrency. He was a well-known and sought-after bitcoin advocate. He often spoke at financial-technology conferences, was a member of the Bitcoin Foundation, and served as an adviser for a nonprofit called the CryptoCurrency Certification Consortium

Wearing a mask and disguising his voice to protect his identity, he says, ‘a slightly geeky 24-year-old burning Pokémon cards and melting money in a microwave on YouTube’ is not the first image that comes to mind when thinking of a criminal mastermind.’ 

QCXINT claims that a personal associate of Cotten’s sent him a screenshot of Cotten’s Skype account that showed he was active after his death. 

Naturally, suspicion fell on Robertson as the beneficiary of her husband’s estate. Some people close to Cotten were surprised to discover that he even had a wife. 

The group of amateur detectives soon uncovered eyebrow-raising details regarding her ‘very strange behavior’ at the funeral. One former Quadriga employee recalls her talking ‘more about food in her eulogy than she did Gerry.’ He claimed that Robertson had a party in her room with friends where ‘drinking and dancing ensued.’

His closed-casket also prompted conjecture: ‘Again, not sure whether there was an actual dead body in there or not,’ said Tong Zou. 

Robertson’s sister, Kimberly Smith, also confirmed: ‘No, I did not see the body.’ 

It wasn’t long before the novice detectives demanded that Cotten’s body be exhumed for verification. 

QCXINT is in the camp that believes Cotten is still alive. ‘Are they just playing the long game?’ he suggests. ‘She’s playing the gullible wife and then, at some point, she’s gonna nick off and meet him in an island in the Caribbean somewhere.’ 

Investigators found the cold wallets were commonly used to store bitcoin starting in April 2014, but in April 2018 all but one of them were abruptly emptied and left dormant. 

Nonetheless, the question remained, if the money wasn’t in the cold wallets, where was it? 

An official probe conducted by the Ontario Securities Commission was able to identify $46 million worth of assets, leaving an unexplained shortfall of $169 million – the bulk of which had been frittered away on Cotten’s lavish lifestyle and making speculative trades in other cryptocurrencies like Dogecoin. 

The 33-page report also concluded Cotten had opened Quadriga accounts under aliases and credited himself with fictitious currency and crypto asset balances, which he then traded with unsuspecting Quadriga clients. 

In the end, they Investigators concluded that Quadriga was old-fashioned Ponzi scheme ‘wrapped in new technology.’  

 

Source: Daily Mail

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