When Gerald Cotten was in high school, the Ontario teen was known to hustle to get his work done in class so that he could spend any free time getting around the school's firewalls to play online games. If that sounds like the origin story of a future internet tycoon, you'd be right—only in the case of Cotten, who went on to become the CEO of Canada's largest cryptocurrency exchange—there's a very big twist. As Enza Uda and Joan Webber write in a lengthy piece for the CBC, the 30-year-old Cotten reportedly died in December 2018 while on his honeymoon in India, taking QuadrigaCX's passcodes with him to the grave. That left more than a quarter of a billion dollars of customers' funds inaccessible. If that sounds weird, it's just the start.
"I smelled a rat. Many people did." So says a customer identified as QCX-INT, who is one of many internet users and law enforcement officials digging in to Cotten's past, where all the money went, and whether Cotten is even dead (his wife says she was there when he died from Crohn's complications; some of those who were burned want to see the body exhumed to confirm this). As for the money, it's mostly gone. QCX-INT explains the bulk of crypto assets are kept offline in cold wallet reserves, and moved back and forth between hot wallets online. Problem was, he couldn't locate Quadriga's cold wallets. "There was just a series of hot wallets, and in turn those hot wallets seemed to be replenished with funds from other exchanges, which again is weird." QCX-INT kept digging, going back to Cotten's teen years and discovering Cotten had allegedly been running Ponzi scams since he was a teen. (Read the full story for much more, including details on the luxe life Cotten was living.)