Normally, the tale of a man who disappeared into a land of cobras wouldn’t make the back page of the New York Times garden section.
However, in this case, this man owed thousands of people piles of money – about $200 million in bitcoins, give or take tens of millions. All these people, who are positively panicked over their situation and who are holding locked crypto wallets, sure want to know where Gerald Cotten might be.
Unfortunately, it’s believed that he’s dead. A victim of inflamed bowels, medically known as Crohn’s disease, Cotten allegedly dried up and blew away in some far off village on the Indian sub-continent. Although the demise is positively sad, Cotten’s friends say he would have wanted to end it that way.
While in his mortal coil, Cotten was known in bitcoin land as the brilliant though erratic co-founder and CEO of the now sunken and rusting hulk called the Quadriga CX exchange, based in Canada.
The name quadriga, a Latin word meaning a chariot drawn by four horses, is a good word. A four-horse chariot fits right into fantastical images like snake charmers, death, rebirth, fake IRS agents, karma and Indian gods with multiple arms. It’s where this story unfolds.
With sweeping reddish hair and a boyish face, Cotten charmed his way to cryptocurrency fame seemingly overnight. Thousands poured millions of crypto coins into the Canadian Quadringa exchange empire. Then it vanished, along with Cotten.
Both the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are romping through the Quadringa derelict, trying to pry open hatches and batter down doors. And why not? The lawman who unlocks this mystery is probably looking at a big bonus and maybe a juicy, fat directorship in the near future.
The Cold Wallet Screwing
Some serious demolition teams have been called in to blast open the crypto doors and find the bitcoins Cotten buried in his Quadringa exchange. One star player, the famous accounting firm of Ernst & Young, released a preliminary report and gave the players on the Quadringa playing board its initial analysis: You’re screwed.
How screwed? It seems that Cotten stored about $200 million of bitcoins belonging to customers in cold wallets. Ouch! And only Cotten holds the keys to unlock these wallets. Ouch again. And Cotten is allegedly dead. That’s really screwed. More than 115,000 customers of Quadringa are experiencing the cold wallet screwing.
Then in March, 2019, Bloomberg news mysteriously reported that the crypto wallets have been empty since April of 2018. So that takes care of the problem, right? Not really.
It gets more muddy for the Quadriga clients. Court records indicate that Cotten also encrypted the company’s messaging system, e-mail and laptop that made up the entire operating system of Quadriga. By the way, Cotten claimed that Quadriga held an 80% share of the BTC markets in Canada.
Cotten’s wife, Jennifer Kathleen Margaret Robertson, confirmed in a Nova Scotia court hearing that her dearly departed husband does indeed hold the only keys to the crypto wallets. Robertson is seeking repayment of $225,000 she spent to keep creditors at bay while the Canadian courts sort it all out. That brings up the million dollar question: Where is he?
India’s I-Want-To-Be-Dead Industry
To begin, investors and investigators are posing numerous questions about this matter. Here are a few:
Is Cotten dead? Who says? Do snake charmers trade bitcoins? What’s India’s favorite funeral dirge? How many bitcoins were recovered from the funeral pyre? Where’s my bitcoin? What! I only get back ten cents on the dollar? I’m screwed.
Online sleuths have uncovered an interesting business niche in the part of India where Cotten shed his mortal remains. Called the I-want-to-be-dead cottage industry, this part of India is loaded with government storefronts that will make you a dead man for the cost of a used iPhone.
For $500, you get a fake death certificate, a fake death photo, fake flowers, a fake funeral, fake weeping widows and a get-well-soon card signed by fake relatives. An extra hundred bucks will buy you a photo of a smiling guy in a white smock and stethoscope examining your dead body, pointing two thumbs down. This may come across as a ridiculous sideshow to normal people, but Indians take death seriously for the right price.
Cynics may leap to the conclusion that Cotten faked his death and is living free as a bird on a breezy South Pacific island with $200 million worth of Mai Tai cocktails and hula dancers. Cotten’s friends reject that cynicism.
The Ray of Sunshine
Friends describe Cotten as a caring man who was passionate about digital currency and would be horrified that his clients couldn’t retrieve $200 million from cold storage wallets. Cotten’s former business partner, Michael Patron, described Cotten as “a ray of sunshine.”
“Considering the amount of dirtbags in Crypto especially, he was a gem,” said Frederick Heartline, a friend and business associate of Cotten. Heartline ran hacker meetings and bitcoin gatherings, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
In an understatement of the decade, Hearttline described Cotten as “a bit of a risk taker.” Heartline has faith that Cotten’s ghost may appear on a Ouija board and spell out the cold wallet passwords, writing a happy ending to the Quadriga saga.
Friends say Cotten lived within his means among various pricey Canadian properties, a sailboat and an aircraft. Also, being the kind-hearted soul that he was, Cotten left $100,000 to Nitro and Gully, his two pet chihuahuas. It’s not known if the dog food cans are encrypted.
Watch Your Phone to Claim FBI Reward
News of Cotten’s death became public in January of 2019. The PR release noted that Cotten passed on while opening an expansive orphanage in Jaipur, India for homeless waifs. The missive noted that Cotten cared deeply about transparency and honesty. It’s not clear whether the orphanage has a bitcoin exchange.
He passed away in a country known for fake IRS agents who call and demand that you buy an iTunes card for $500 and give it to them. If you don’t, the con artists threaten to lock you up in federal prison.
There’s an interesting opportunity here, though, so watch your phone. Of course be wary of IRS agents with Indian accents who demand money over the phone. However, if the fake agent says his name is Gerry Cotten, call the FBI. There’s a $100,000 reward. But first ask if the reward is in bitcoin held in a Quadriga cold wallet or is the reward in fiat US dollars?