The death of Gerald Cotten, the founder of Quadriga CX, has left many unanswered questions in its wake. So many, in fact, that Netflix has released a new documentary about the mystery, “Trust No One: The Hunt for the Crypto King.” Cotten died in India, a mere 12 days after his will had been signed. At the time of his death, over $140 million dollars worth of cryptocurrency were allegedly missing from the exchange and Cotten, who controlled the entire exchange, was later found to have stolen the money. But the story gets even weirder.
What happened on December 9?
Gerald Cotten died of complications from Crohn’s Disease on December 9, 2018. There are those that question if he faked his death, but the evidence points to something more mundane: Gerald Cotten knew that his Ponzi scheme was about to be uncovered, and his house of cards was about to crumble. He was supposedly eating poorly and drinking too much, signs of stress that would have made his Crohn’s worse. He and his new wife, Jennifer Robertson, traveled to India for their honeymoon, when Gerald fell ill and, over the next day and a half, his heart stopped beating three separate times. The doctors were unable to resuscitate him the third time, and he was pronounced dead. Oddly, however, no autopsy was requested or completed, and Jennifer returned with Gerald’s body to Canada, where a closed-casket funeral was held.
What is this so-called Ponzi scheme?
Gerald Cotton was the founder of Quadriga CX, a cryptocurrency exchange where users could buy and sell Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency. It was also a Ponzi scheme, where Gerald was secretly taking the money out of the exchange and essentially gambling other people’s money on other cryptocurrency exchanges. In the process, and as the value of cryptocurrency plummeted during 2018, it’s believed Gerald lost over $140 million. Over 75,000 people lost their investments, with very little of the money recouped.
A scammer since his teens
It’s believed that Gerald was running money laundering scams with Michael Patryn (previously Omar Dhanani, one of 28 people arrested for laundering money, who served 18 months in prison) since Gerald was about 15 years old, meeting on a sketchy web forum for high yield investment programs (aka Ponzi schemes). Gerald and Michael formed Quadriga CX together in 2015, although Michael claims that he left the company in 2016 just before their entire board left, and had no idea that it was a Ponzi scheme… a claim that seems dubious at best, given his history in running prior schemes both with Gerald and separately. From 2016 on, the company wasn’t filing public reports or keeping accounting records, despite managing upwards of $1 billion in annual transactions. Following Gerald’s death and the ensuing scandal, Michael has disappeared from public life.
Why did no one know Gerald Cotten was married?
One of the curiosities brought up in the Netflix documentary is that most people who knew Gerald didn’t know he was in a relationship with Jennifer, or that they’d gotten married. Since they met in 2014 on Tinder, it seems unusual that Gerald’s friends were completely unaware of their four year relationship. Yet even Michael Patryn claimed not to have known that Gerald was married until after his passing.
Does Ms. Robertson have anything to do with this?
Following Gerald’s death, many people thought that Jennifer Robertson would help get access to Quadriga’s funds, or that she at least knew what was happening at Quadriga CX. Jennifer claims that she had no idea how the company worked, even though her own company was being paid to help process Quadriga CX payments. She also was the only person with Gerald in his final hours in the hospital in India, where his health took a sudden turn for the worse and his heart stopped, leading some to question if she had poisoned him. Even after Gerald’s death, when the fraud came to light, she originally proposed being able to keep $5 million of her ill-gotten inheritance, though ultimately she got much less. She claims not to know any of Gerald’s passwords to his devices or online accounts, which is somewhat surprising after four years of being together. She also cooperated with the Quadriga CX bankruptcy team in requesting access to Gerald’s Gmail account, but once the court order was granted, there’s no evidence she ever sent the final necessary request to Google to release his email messages.
A $500,000 “oops”
After Gerald’s death, Quadriga CX continued to operate for another month or so, allowing people to put money into the exchange, but not take money out. Jennifer posted Gerald’s death announcement on Facebook in January 2019, and shortly thereafter, Ernst & Young were appointed to manage the company’s assets, which soon shifted to handling the bankruptcy, once they learned the company was a failing Ponzi scheme. One day after taking over, the team accidentally transferred $500,000 of the remaining funds into a cold (offline) cryptocurrency wallet, which no one can access without the keys (passwords) that Gerald took to the grave with him.
The story of Gerald Cotten and Quadriga CX would be a crazy story even if the company wasn’t created by a practiced money laundering team, Gerald didn’t die under suspicious circumstances in India, and people knew Gerald had a girlfriend/wife. Leaving $250 million in supposed company assets without any records and without a way to access them is a dramatic story. With all these other factors added into it, it seems like more like an episode of True Detective or Breaking Bad. We may never know how much Gerald Cotten planned, or whether there is hidden money stored in offshore accounts somewhere, but there are certainly enough questions raised that make you wonder what exactly happened here. It’s safe to say that there are some big mysteries in this case that will never have a satisfactory answer.