My story in Decrypt: “QuadrigaCX CEO traded millions in fake funds to fund luxury lifestyle, alleges trustee”

Ernst & Young released its fifth report of the monitor last night, and it was a doozy. I covered the report for Decrypt. If you have not read my story yet, check it out here.

The monitor’s report is 70 pages long, and I recommend finding a nice comfortable spot and reading all of it. It is page after page, paragraph after paragraph, of “What the hell?”

According to the report, from 2016 onwards, QuadrigaCX went completely off the rails. Gerald Cotten, the exchange’s now deceased CEO, appears to have had no interest in running a legitimate business. He treated customer funds like his own personal bank account—a bit like Bernie Madoff, only a lot more recklessly.

Cotten gambled with his customers’ money, went on lavish vacations, flew on private jets, and bought properties, an airplane, a yacht, whatever toys he wanted. Now most of the funds on the exchange are gone, and EY still has no clue as to where the cash proceeds went. The big question is, did Cotten really act alone?

Quadriga co-founder Michael Patryn is not mentioned in the report. According to what we know, he completely stepped away from the business in early 2016. After that, Cotten allegedly became a recluse and ran the business into the ground single handedly.

EY has also released a three-part (1, 2, 3) sixth monitor’s report detailing the costs of professional services related to Quadriga’s Companies’ Creditor Arrangement Act. Moving forward, EY is now the trustee in Quadriga’s bankruptcy proceedings.

# # #

TalkGold — the ponzi forum where Quadriga’s Patryn and Cotten first met

Previously, I wrote that Quadriga cofounders Michael Patryn and the now-deceased Gerald Cotten worked together for a period at Midas Gold, a digital currency exchanger that ran from 2008 until May 2013, when it was pulled offline. Now, it appears their connections stretch back even further.

According to data posted by Reddit user QCXINT, the two business partners appear to have been active on TalkGold, a popular forum for pushing high-yield investment programs (HYIPs), as early as 2003. Likely, that is where they first met. Evidence also suggests the two were active on BlackHatWorld, a site for discussing dubious marketing strategies for websites. Cotten also appears to have been a ponzi operator himself. 

This is a long post, so here is a quick summary of what’s ahead:

  • Cotten likely began promoting ponzis in his teens.
  • He was posting on TalkGold under the username “Sceptre.” 
  • At the same time, Patryn posted on TalkGold as “Patryn.” 
  • Patryn and Sceptre joined TalkGold in 2003, within months of each other.
  • Patryn also posted as “Patryn” on MoneyMakerGroup and BlackHatWorld.
  • Sceptre first appeared on BlackHatWorld in 2012, but then changed his profile name to “Murdoch1337.” 
  • Sceptre posted as “Lucky-Invest” on TalkGold to promote a ponzi.

What is a high-yield investment program?

HYIP is just another way of saying ponzi. These schemes typically promise ridiculously high rates of returns. But behind the scenes, no real investment is taking place. The operator simply uses money coming in from new investors to pay off earlier ones, all the while skimming money off the top for him/herself. When the supply of new investors runs out, the scheme collapses.   

Screen Shot 2019-04-23 at 11.49.46 AM
Flimflam man Charles Ponzi, 1920.

Ponzis are nothing new. The name stems from Charles Ponzi, an Italian immigrant who defrauded tens of thousands of Bostonians out of $18 million in 1920. Ponzi went to jail, and when he got out, the US promptly deported him to Italy. New York financier Bernie Madoff ran a $65 billion ponzi, the largest in history. He was convicted in 2008.

In the early 2000s, the Internet and the advent of early centralized digital currencies, like e-gold and Liberty Reserve, saw a new wave of ponzis. Operators anonymously set up their storefronts online and used e-currencies to obscure the source and flow of funds.

HYIP operators rely on social media and referrals to create hype and make their offerings appear legitimate. Despite the red flags, many people still invest in HYIPs, thinking that if they get in early enough, they can make a buck.  

An entire subculture has proliferated around HYIPs. There are sites that track and monitor HYIPs, and forums, where people go to promote and learn more about HYIPs. There’s even an HYIP subreddit, in case you want to poke around. 

When an HYIP scheme collapses—and they always collapse—the collapse is generally blamed on a hack, a theft, or a bad investment—some type of external event that is plausibly at arm’s length from the operator. When that happens, the HYIP operator begins issuing “refunds”—in good faith, of course.

Some HYIP operators even go to the effort of setting up long-winded spreadsheets, and paying back dribs and drabs over months. Of course, the first people to get paid back are usually insiders or the operators themselves, under different names, who then loudly proclaim what a great guy the operator is, and how decent it is of him/her to spend all their time and effort refunding everyone.

The U.S. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the regulatory body charged with governing business between brokers, dealers and the investing public, writes that “virtually every HYIP we have seen bears hallmarks of fraud.”

TalkGold and MoneyMakerGroup

Starting in January 2003, TalkGold and sister site MoneyMakerGroup were two hugely popular Internet forums used to launch and promote HYIPs. The sites were pulled offline on August 21, 2017, a day after the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) filed an asset forfeiture complaint against Edward and Brian Krassenstein, the twin brothers that ran the sites. Homeland Security raided the twins’ Florida homes a month later.

According to BehindMLM, the DoJ docs read:

“Since at least 2003, Brian and Edward Krassenstein … have owned and operated websites devoted to the promotion of fraudulent HYIPs. In particular, the Krassenstein run sites ‘talkgold.com’ and ‘moneymakergroup.com’ are discussion forums in which HYIP operators advertise and promote their fraud schemes to potential victims.”

“Patryn” on TalkGold

Michael Patryn, formerly Omar Dhanani, was arrested in October 2004 on charges related to his involvement with Shadowcrew, a cybercrime message board. Operating under the pseudonym “Voleur,” French for thief, he offered Shadowcrew members an electronic money laundering service—wire him cash, and he would fund your e-gold account, thereby adding a layer of anonymity to any purchases you planned to make.

After the Shadowcrew bust, TalkGold users began to speculate that “Patryn,” a prolific poster on TalkGold, was Dhanani—and there is good reason to suspect that he was. 

“Patryn” joined TalkGold on April 3, 2003. His profile linked directly to VFS Network, a network for several digital currency exchangers, including Midas Gold, HD Money, and Triple Exchange—three that Patryn himself operated. VFS Network was also his business. (VFS stands for Voleur Financial Services.)

Screen Shot 2019-04-23 at 12.21.53 PM

If that is not enough evidence, “Patryn” openly admits on TalkGold that he operates Midas Gold. The business registration for Midas Gold also lists “Omar Patryn” (one of Patryn’s known aliases) as its sole director. 

Patryn also appears to have used the profile name “Patryn” on MoneyMakerGroup, with the same link to VFS Network. He joined MoneyMakerGroup on November 27, 2007, six months after he got out of a US federal prison, where he served 18 months related to his earlier Shadowcrew arrest.

Sceptre on TalkGold

Cotten was likely “Sceptre” on TalkGold. Sceptre joined TalkGold on July 4, 2003, three months after Patryn joined. Cotten would have been 15 or 16, at the time.  

TalkGold members were able to list “friends” on the site. A May 2013 archived profile page for Patryn shows that he had six friends—one of whom is Sceptre. Similarly, a May 2013 archived profile page for Sceptre shows he had one friend—“Patryn.”  

The two also interacted. Many of Sceptre’s TalkGold posts appear alongside Patryn’s in the same thread, either promoting or defending VFS Network, Midas Gold, or one of the other exchanges Patryn operated. (If you read my past article, there is also evidence to suggest that Cotten was the main operator for Midas Gold.)  

On December 7, 2009, when a user on TalkGold complains that he is having issues with Midas Gold, Sceptre replies, “I’ve never had any problems with M-Gold. They are usually very efficient.” Patryn follows on the same thread with, “M-Gold does not work during weekends. What is your order reference number? I will have it taken care of ASAP.”

On September 29, 2012, “Patryn” responds to someone complaining about Midas Gold keeping their money. (This was not unusual, by the way. There were many complaints about Midas Gold withholding customer funds. See here, here and here.)

“Patryn” writes:

“To the best of my knowledge, both of us have been responding to your emails. You sent me five emails yesterday demanding that I hurry up and resolve this issue. Your issue will be resolved ASAP. Unfortunately, I cannot force the banks to speed up their investigation process.”

In the same thread, Sceptre replies to “Patryn,” almost mocking the customer.

“lol, I’m surprised you’re willing to help him. You offer your dispute resolution for free, and he thanks you by spamming your inbox and complaining that you don’t reply while you’re sleeping.”

In September 2012, a poster asks, “I am looking for a LR Exchanger into HD-Money.” (Basically, the poster wants to convert one digital currency, Liberty Reserve, into another, without having to go through fiat). Sceptre replies, “For this type of trade I would use ecashworldcard.” Patryn follows by posting a link to his HD-Money site, which lists Ecash World Card as an offering.

Cotten and Patryn on BlackHatWorld

BlackHatWorld is a forum where people go to discuss “black hat” marketing tactics. Paid shilling (paying someone to promote your product on social media), negative SEO attacks (improving your SEO ranking by destroying your competitor’s) and gaming a search engine’s algorithm are all topics of discussion on this forum.

These tactics are generally used by Websites that only plan to stick around long enough to make a quick financial gain, which is exactly what HYIPs aim to do.

Someone going by “Patryn” was also active on BlackHatWorld. This person joined on September 6, 2012, and was last active on September 7, 2017. He only posted 9 messages.

Another poster—”Murdoch1337″—in BlackHatWorld, was much more active. He joined on February 12, 2012, and his last activity was January 8, 2017. This person appears to have previously been posting as Sceptre, and we believe this was Cotten. 

Screen Shot 2019-04-23 at 2.21.23 PM

(QXCINT also tells me that one of Cotten’s email accounts—g@mailhoose.com, which was tied to a number of Cotten’s domain registrations—has or had an active account on BlackHatWorld, but the method he used was too technical for me to confirm independently.)

Murdoch1337 appears as the original poster in a thread titled “Sceptre’s Spectacular Content Services!!! – $1.50 per 100 words”—an indication that Sceptre likely switched his profile name to Murdoch1337 sometime after he started the thread. He responds to other posters in the thread as if he is the one offering the content services. “That’s all the review copies for now,” he writes. “For everyone else, feel free to place your orders using the order info in my original post.”

On September 10, 2013, Murdoch1337 posts an ad for a developer to help him with an upcoming cryptocurrency exchange. In the ad, he writes:

“I am looking for a programmer who is familiar with Bitcoin to develop a website that is very similar to Bitstamp…Also, I’m looking to get this project built and online quickly, so if you are able to do it quickly, that is a bonus.”

This ad was posted three months before Quadriga launched in beta. The timing makes sense given that Quadriga was was based on WLOX, an open-source exchange solution available on Github, which would have dramatically reduced the time it took to create a functioning crypto exchange. Alex Hanin built the Quadriga platform, though it is not clear if Cotten actually recruited Hanin via this ad on BlackHatWorld.

An almost identical ad with the title “Bitstamp clone – Bitcoin trading project” was posted on Freelancer.com. The job poster, who was anonymous, had 38 projects on the site. He left a few telling details behind on one of the projects:

Hi

I’m looking for programmers who are knowledgeable when it comes to Bitcoin and I found you.

I have a number of projects that need work, including a new Bitcoin exchange. Are you able to build sites like this? If so, i’d like to get in touch

Thanks

Gerry

Skype: gerrywc

email: sceptre@countermail.com.

S&S Investments and Lucky Invest

One of Sceptre’s HYIPs was S&S Investments, a website that opened for business on January 1, 2004. (“Copyright @2004 Sceptre” is written at the bottom of the page.) He promotes the scheme as a way to double your money

“You invest a sum of money into the program and within 48 hours (usually within 18) you will receive a return of anything from 103% to 150%, possibly more.”

Screen Shot 2019-04-25 at 10.09.52 AM

He is sure to point out that this is “not what is called a ponzi or pyramid scheme.” It offers returns that are far better!  

In case the first offer sounded a little too far fetched, he changes the text later to something only slightly more believable. S&S now becomes a “fixed term investment,” which pays 115% in a week….”you can invest and walk away in profit after just 7 days!”

Screen Shot 2019-04-25 at 10.15.00 AM.png

Of course, S&S ultimately collapses, and discussion around it gets moved to the “Closed / Scammed Programs” section of TalkGold, where Sceptre continues to string along anxious investors, who continue to hold out hope for a “refund.” He writes:

“Refunds WILL take some time. I cannot guarantee that they will all be made quickly. The refund process is likely to spread over a long period of time, but I am willing to do my best to refund everyone to the best of my ability. Please be patient and you will receive a lovely surprise in your e-gold, a refund from S&S Investments,” Sceptre writes.

One TalkGold user reviewed what he considered to be the 12 biggest HYIP “scams” on TalkGold. This is what he wrote about S&S Investments:

“S&S Investments is an interesting program because it was operated by a ‘well known’ person in the HYIP arena. I use the quote marks, because this person was not well known at all, in fact he was very anonymous. No one knew his name, other than his nickname he used to post with, Sceptre. He used anonymous proxies, he was very well hidden. Yet because he had over 1000 posts on TalkGold, he earned a kind of pseudo-trust that people get from being very visible and always online.

Sceptre started off with a small little program that promised to pay back a large amount after a few days. It soon grew to become very, very popular, and it was not long before he upgraded to a fully automated script.

Sceptre wouldn’t tell people how he made the money, he just said that was his little secret. Virtually everyone invested into S&S Investments based on his post count on TalkGold. “He’s made a lot of posts on TalkGold, therefore he must be honest” seemed to be the general opinion of the investors.

S&S Investments went for sometime before cracks started to appear. First the website went offline, then was back again, but withdrawals weren’t being honoured, then the site went offline again. Finally, Sceptre made an announcement that S&S Investments were closed and refunds were to promised.

For a while, refunds did proceed, but then things started to dry up. Since the summer, no more refunds have been processed.

Hey, just because someone has thousands of posts on a forum, doesn’t mean he’s a trustworthy guy. Use your head, look at what the whole program is offering.”

In May 2004, Sceptre appears to switch to another TalkGold profile, “Lucky-Invest,” to promote a Lucky Invest HYIP. 

At one point in a thread, he apparently forgets to log out of Lucky-Invest and continues responding as if he were Sceptre, until another poster calls him out:

“You forgot to sign in as ‘sceptre’. ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh . .. looks like Lucky-Invest changed their message!!! . . . too funny!!! . .. did you get caught Sceptre??? hahaha ;)”

Sceptre/Lucky-Invest replies:

“I’m not trying to hide. Lucky Invest, the Newest Investment/Game. My profits go to help pay refunds. THIS IS A GAME, IT WILL NOT HAVE ANY REFUNDS.”

This is a straight out admission that Lucky Invest was not an actual investment. It was a “game,” in other words, a fraud. When you give me your money, it is mine. There are no refunds in this game, just me sharing my profits.

Knowing that Cotten and Patryn did business together on TalkGold does not tell us where the CA$250 million worth of crypto and fiat that was on Quadriga went. (Only a fraction of those funds have been recovered so far.) But it certainly does bring up questions, such as, was Cotten really just a starry-eyed Bitcoin libertarian? Or was he a seasoned con artist, who had no qualms about taking other people’s money?

Did you enjoy this story? Become a co-conspirator. Support me on Patreon.

 

Quadriga: Patryn, Cotten, and Midas Gold—a Liberty Reserve exchanger

Screen Shot 2019-04-09 at 5.18.37 PMThe now-defunct Canadian crypto exchange QuadrigaCX was founded in November 2013. Where did its co-founders Michael Patryn and the now-deceased Gerald Cotten first meet? Did they exchange pleasantries in the Toronto Bitcoin community earlier that year? Did they meet online in some bitcoin chat forum? Or did they have other prior business dealings stretching even further back?

New evidence uncovered by Reddit user “QCXINT” (he’ll be posting more on Reddit soon) suggests that Cotten appears to have been involved with Patryn at Midas Gold, a Liberty Reserve exchanger, set up by Patryn in 2008.

Patryn and Midas Gold

Patryn was formerly Omar Dhanania convicted felon who was arrested in connection with online identity theft ring Shadowcrew.com in October 2004. He was 20 at the time. Working out of his home in Southern California, he was a moderator on the forum. He also offered forum members an electronic money laundering service. Send him a Western Union money order and—for a fee of 10% of a transaction—he would filter your money through e-gold accounts. E-gold was an early centralized digital currency. Dhanani served 18 months in a US prison and was released in 2007.

After the US deported him back to Canada, Patryn picked up where he left off. In April 2008, he founded Midas Gold Exchange. He was listed as the company’s sole director under “Omar Patryn,” with a company address in Calgary—though he was living in Montreal at the time. A few months earlier, the digital currency exchange service launched on M-Gold.com. (Here is an archive of the site taken in its early days, and here is an archive showing an updated design taken just before things took a dive).

In January 5, 2008, the earliest entry on the website reads:

“We have finally launched this website, and are requesting that clients place all future orders through the Contact Us page. We have, of course, been in business since 2005 and hope to continue providing you with the same great service throughout the new year. Thank you once again for your business, and have a happy New Year!”

There are no names of actual people anywhere on the site. But an October 17, 2009 entry gives the impression that a whirl of activity is going on behind the scenes.

“We apologize for the delays experienced for many clients during the course of this week. We are currently undergoing a massive corporate restructuring. During this time, some exchange directions are temporarily disabled. All pending orders should be processed within one business day.”

Digital currencies listed on the site included E-Gold, HD-Money, WebMoney, WMZ E-Currency and AlterGold E-Currency. Midas Gold had even started accepting bitcoin in June 2011, but Liberty Reserve was by far its main money maker.

How Liberty Reserve worked

A Costa Rica-based centralized digital currency service, Liberty Reserve was like PayPal for criminals. You could use it to anonymously transfer the system’s digital currency LR, worth $1 apiece,* to anyone who had an account on the system. The system served millions of users around the world before May 2013, when it was shut down by the U.S. government.

(*All dollars listed in this article are USD)

To set up an account on libertyreserve.com, all you needed was a valid email address. You could make up whatever fake name you wanted, because the site had virtually no KYC/AML to validate identities. You could, literally, use it to send huge amounts of money around the world without anyone batting an eyebrow. 

There was one caveat. You could not fund your Liberty Reserve account directly. If you wanted to buy LR, you had to go through a third-party exchanger, such as M-Gold. Conversely, if you wanted to redeem your LR for cash, you also had to go through an exchanger. 

LR exchangers would buy LRs in bulk and sell them in smaller quantities, typically charging a 5% transaction fee. This setup allowed Liberty Reserve to avoid collecting banking information on its users, which could leave a financial trail—exactly what criminals want to avoid when choosing a digital currency. 

Liberty Reserve went into operation in 2005. Eight years later, the system had more than 5.5 million users worldwide and processed a combined value of more than $8 billion. Most of that volume came from the U.S.

During 2009 to 2013, Liberty Reserve was in full swing. These were the sunshine days of criminal activity. A huge number of transactions were related to high-yield investment programs (HYIPs)—better known as ponzis schemes—credit card trafficking, stolen ID information and computer hacking.  

Cotten’s email

A data dump—in one of the court exhibits (see attachment #180 for GX 1305) related to the takedown of Liberty Reserve—shows that Midas Gold ranked 342 of the top 500 Liberty Reserve accounts in volume.

The name on the Midas Gold account is Omar Patryn, but the email address linked to it is geraldcotten@gmail.com. What does that mean? It means whoever owned that email had the authority to operate the Midas Gold account for Liberty Reserve. They could reset the password, enable or disable 2FA, and authorize transactions. 

The data indicates Midas Gold bought up more than $5 million worth of LR. At 5 percent of a transaction, that equates to profits of around $250,000—not a lot, but decent wages.

Screen Shot 2019-04-09 at 10.49.15 AM
Rank: 342, Category: Exchanger, Associated website: http://www.m-gold.com, All currencies: $5,221,489.02, LR: $5,081,353.88, Account name: Midas Gold Exchange, First name: Omar, Last name: Patryn, Email: geraldcotten@gmail.com

The email suggests that Cotten and Patryn may have worked at M-Gold.com together—though its not clear if Cotten was involved from the beginning or joined later. If anything, this could even suggest that Cotten had more control over Midas then Patryn.

Pause for a moment — if you were going to be involved in a dodgy business, why would you use an email address that directly pointed to you? I know I wouldn’t. If you are still wondering, “Was that really Cotten’s email?” The answer is, “Quite possibly—yes.”

We think this is his email because the person appears to have used that same email address for several domain registrations, including, cloakedninja.com, where you could buy proxy sites to hide your IP address, and celebritydaily.net, an entertainment news blog. A historical WHOIS data snapshot of these site reveals they both have a registration address of 346-1881 Steeles Ave W Toronto. Quadriga Fintech Solutions, the owner and operator of QuadrigaCX, is linked to the same address. 

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Patryn’s Liberty Reserve account

In addition to the Midas Gold account, Patryn had his own account on Liberty Reserve, but his account had no associated website. He appears to have had at least three other exchangers at the time—HD Money (archive) and E-cash World and Triple Exchange (archive). It’s possible he was selling LR through those sites as well as Midas Gold, and was just using the one account. Or Cotten could have operated Midas alone, while Patryn handled the other businesses.

Approximately $18.4 million worth of LR went through Patryn’s Liberty Reserve account. Of Liberty Reserve’s 500 largest accounts by volume, his ranked 88. If he took a 5 percent cut of every transaction, he would have amassed a healthy $920,000.

Screen Shot 2019-04-09 at 12.32.59 PM
Rank: 88, Category: Exchanger, Associated website: [field empty], All currencies: $18,653,708.71, LR: $18,416,444.50, Account type: Currency, First Name: Omar, Last Name: Patryn, email: admin@patryn.com
A passage from the court documents explains:

“Data obtained from Liberty Reserve’s servers reflects the extensive use of the company’s payment system by criminal websites. The Government analyzed the top 500 accounts by transaction volume, i.e. funds sent and received, to attempt to determine the type of activity associated with each account. The total transaction volume for these accounts is approximately $7.26 billion, or approximately 43% of the total volume of transactions on Liberty Reserve’s entire system.”

Also according to the analysis, of the top roughly 500 accounts, 44 percent were associated with exchangers, 18 percent could not be categorized, and the remaining 38 percent were categorized as follows:

“157 of the accounts, accounting for approximately $2.6 billion in transactions, were associated with some form of purported ‘investment’ opportunity. The vast majority of these accounts were linked to websites that, on their face, were clearly ponzi schemes, i.e., HYIPs. Others, at best, were associated with unregulated ‘forex’ (foreign currency trading) websites—which are likewise known to be prominent sources of fraud.”

Ruh Roh

Screen Shot 2019-04-09 at 12.57.29 AMGood things never seem to last, and in May 20, 2013, Liberty Reserve founder Arthur Budovsky was arrested in Spain for running a massive money laundering enterprise. Days later, the domain libertyreserve.com was seized.

Shortly afterward, US authorities seized more than 30 domains registered as Liberty Reserve exchangers in a civil forfeiture case, including M-Gold.com. According to court docs, “the defendant domain names were used to fund Liberty Reserve’s operations; without them, there would not have been money for Liberty Reserve to launder.” 

Following the shut down of Liberty Reserve, users were told to contact the court to recoup their lost funds—on the basis they were conducting legit business. According to court docs filed in April 2016: “Notwithstanding that Liberty Reserve had more than 5 million registered user accounts, only approximately 50 individuals have contacted the Southern District Court of New York since May 2013.” Most appeared to be victims of HYIPs and other scams. And only one Liberty Reserve exchanger contacted the court about a potential claim—and that claim was not pursued.

A few months after M-Gold.com was seized, QuadrigaCX launched in beta. The rest is history—or history in the making—depending how you look at it. 

Did you like this story? Please support my work on Patreon, so I can keep on doing it.

 

News: EY goes after Quadriga’s payment processors, more exchange hacks, and the SEC tells us what we already know

I had to take my website offline for a few hours Tuesday, so if you were searching for one of my stories and got a weird message, my apologies. I asked WordPress to downgrade my site from a business plan to a premium plan, and when they did, a bunch of my content disappeared, so I had to put Humpty-Dumpty back together again.

Big thanks to my now 18 patrons, who are making it easier for me to focus on writing about crypto. If you like my work, please consider supporting me on Patreon, so I can keep doing what I am doing.  

Now onto the news, starting with Quadriga, the defunct Canadian crypto exchange that I won’t shut up about. (Read my timeline to get up to speed.)

Ernst & Young (EY), the court-appointed monitor charged with tracking down Quadriga’s lost funds, released its fourth monitor report, which reveals more money going out then coming in. The closing cash balance for March was CA$23,268,411. Incoming cash for the month was CA$4,232, and total disbursements was CA$1,463,860—most of which was paid to professionals. A full half of that (CA$721,579) went to EY and its legal team.

EY is trying to chase down money held by Quadriga’s payment processors. It has drafted a “Third Party Payment Processor Order” for the court to approve on Monday. If that goes through as is, several payment processors, including WB21, will have five business days to handover funds and/or Quadriga documents and transaction data. If they don’t comply, they will be in contempt of court. A shift from CCAA to bankruptcy proceedings will also give EY more power to go after funds as a trustee

Christine Duhaime, a financial crimes lawyer who worked for Quadriga for six months in 2015 to early 2016, wrote “From Law to Lawlessness: Bits of the Untold QuadrigaCX” for CoinDesk, where she talks about how Quadriga went off the rails following its failed efforts to become a public company.

In the article, Duhaime—who in February called for a government bailout of Quadriga’s creditors (archive)—openly admits to having lost CA$100,000 in funds on the exchange. She claims her involvement with the exchange stopped in early 2016. “I’m glad we were let go by QuadrigaCX for being one of the ‘law and order’ folks,” she said.  

I have been corrected on detail here:

She does not mention this in her article, but in 2015, she also owned 20,000 shares of Quadriga stock. It is possible she has since sold the holdings.

Preston Byrne, an attorney at Byrne & Storm, PC, tweeted, “No offense to @ahcastor but this claim that @cduhaime may have owned shares in Quadriga looks to be incorrect. She’s listed as the principal contact for an SPV, and the SPV is the named purchaser. A retraction is in order.”

SPV stands for special purpose vehicle, typically used by firms to isolate them from financial risk. I’ve reworded the paragraph as follows:

This 2015 British Columbia Report of Exempt Distribution, a document of Quadriga Financial Solutions’ ownership, lists Duhaime as the contact for 1207649 B.C. Ltd, which owns—or owned—20,000 shares of Quadriga. I was unable to find the corporate files for 1207649 B.C. The address in the report matches that of Duhaime’s office.  

Update (April 9): I found the corporate files. The actual company name appears to be 1027649 B.C. Ltd.—with the numbers “2” and “0” transposed. The company was founded on February 16, 2015 and dissolved on August 1, 2017. The sole director is “Anne Ellis,” and the registered office is Duhaime Law.

According to court documents, Cotten and Quadriga co-founder Michael Patryn had been seeking to buy back shareholdings after Quadriga’s public listing failed, so it is possible one of them may have bought back those shares as well. I reached out to Duhaime for comment a few times, but she has not responded. 

Duhaime may have left Quadriga behind, but she continued to have business dealings with Patryn, who we now know is convicted felon Omar Dhanani

She and Patryn co-founded Fintech Ventures Group, which calls itself “an investment bank focused on digital currency, blockchain, and AI-focused technology.” According to a January 2016 archive of the company’s site, Duhaime was Fintech Venture’s “Digital Finance Maven & Co-Founder.” (Interestingly, former Quadriga director Anthony Milewski worked there, too, as the company’s “Investment Relations Extraordinaire.”) 

Duhaime and Patryn were also both advisors at Canadian crypto exchange Taurus Crypto Services, according to this June 2016 archive. (Milewski shows up here again, this time as an advisor.) The exchange was founded in 2014 and shut down in January 2017, when the business shifted to over-the-counter trades.  

Like Duhaime, Patryn also claims his involvement with Quadriga ended in early 2016. Although the Globe and Mail said that in October 2018, “it received an e-mail pitch from an ‘executive concierge’ company called the Windsor Group offering up Mr. Patryn for interviews to discuss virtual currencies and describing him as a Quadriga director.” Patryn told the Globe he did not know what the Windsor Group was, nor had he authorized anyone to pitch him as a Quadriga director, as he never served on the board.

Patryn had a personal website michaelpatryn.com, but it got taken down. Here is a 2011 archive and here is a 2014 archive. From 2016 on, the archives point to his LinkedIn profile, where he now goes by “Michael P.” having dropped all but the first initial of his last name. According to his LinkedIn, he has been an advisor for numerous cryptocurrency platforms going back to November 1999. I guess that means his work at Shadowcrew in 2004 and the 18 months he spent in jail for conspiracy to commit credit and bank card fraud and ID document fraud qualifies as advisory services.

Patryn appears to enjoy the limelight. Several reporters told me they had no trouble reaching him. At one point, Patryn even went into the “Quadriga Uncovered” Telegram group—basically, the lion’s den, where hundreds of pissed off Quadriga creditors sat waiting on their haunches —where I am told he calmly deflected accusations.

Meanwhile, I’ve been practicing my authoritative stare and baritone.

Other exchanges

Elsewhere in cryptoland, there have been a number of exchanges hacks. Singapore-based exchange DragonEx was hacked on March 24 for an undisclosed amount of crypto.

Blockchain data firm Elementus suspects that Coinbene, another Singapore exchange, was also hacked. On March 25, Elementus noted that $105 million worth of crypto was on the move out of the exchange. Coinbene totally denies it’s been hacked, claiming that delays in deposits and withdrawals are due to maintenance issues. 

A third exchange, Bithumb was hacked on March 30. The South Korean crypto exchange lost 3.07 million EOS and 20.2 million XRP, worth around $19 million. Bithumb thinks it was an insider job.

Helsinki-based LocalBitcoins, a once go-to for anonymous bitcoin transactions, has added know-your-customer (KYC) identity checks to comply with new laws in Finland. The change goes into effect in November. Per the company’s announcement, this is actually good news for bitcoin, because it will create a “legal status for crypto assets, which should improve significantly Bitcoin’s standing as a viable and legit financial network.”  

A study by reg-tech startup Coinfirm found that 69 percent of crypto exchanges don’t have “complete and transparent” KYC procedures. And only 26 percent of exchanges had a “high” level of anti-money-laundering procedures.

With crypto markets in the dumps, exchanges are looking for new ways to attract volume. To that end, San Francisco-based Coinbase is launching a staking service to lure in institutional investors. The service, which starts with Tezos (XTZ), will pay investors to park their money in XTZ. The coins are kept in offline cold wallets. The catch is that the interest will be paid XTZ, and of course, crypto is highly volatile. 

The price of XTZ went up 70 percent on the news.

Cryptocurrency exchange Binance is launching a new fiat-to-crypto exchange in Singapore later this month. (It’s been launching these crypto onramps all over the word.)

Binance also says it’s planning to launch its decentralized exchange (DEX) later this month. The DEX is built on a public blockchain, Binance Chain. Basically, Binance is looking to create an economy for binance coin (BNB), which is totally not a security.

Other interesting news bits 

Screen Shot 2019-04-05 at 11.03.29 AMThe the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission issued a “Framework for ‘Investment Contract’ Analysis of Digital Assets.” There is not a lot new to see here. A footnote in the document makes clear this is “not a rule, regulation, or statement of the Commission,” just some thoughts from the SEC’s staff about how they interpret existing securities laws. 

Stephen Palley, partner at law firm Anderson Kill, appeared on Bloomberg sporting a beard to explain the framework—definitely worth five minutes of your time to listen to.

Justin Sun, the founder of blockchain project Tron, bungled a Tesla promotional giveaway. After a widespread cry of foul play, he decided to make it up to everyone by giving away—two Teslas. This wasn’t the first time a Tron promotion raised eyebrows.

Nocoiner David Gerard wrote a Foreign Policy piece on “How Neo-Nazis Bet Big on Bitcoin (and Lost)” that was translated for Newsweek Japan.

The ever outspoken Jackson Palmer did a good interview with Epicenter Blockchain Podcast on the history of Dogecoin and the state of cryptocurrency in 2019.

Nicholas Weaver, who gave the “Burn it with Fire” talk at Enigma, spoke to Breaker about why cryptocurrencies don’t really work as currencies.

Finally, Dream Market, the last standing marketplace from the once infamous “big four” sites that dominated dark web trading in the mid-2010s, announced plans to shut down.

 

 

News: I’m speaking in Vancouver, Kraken’s obsession with Quadriga, and Patryn may have been trading on BitMEX

Hello new readers! If you enjoy my crypto meanderings and paywall-free Quadriga resources, please subscribe to my Patreon account. I’m an independent writer, and I need your support. You can subscribe for as little as $2 a month.  

I will be giving a presentation on Quadriga at MPWR Crypto Mining Summit in Vancouver, B.C. on March 12 at 4:15 p.m. local time. If you lost money on Quadriga, you can get into the event for free. Simply send an email to community@biresearch.ca.  

I’m obviously insane to have driven to the Quadriga hearing in Halifax on March 5, given the weather conditions. I went with fellow crypto-skeptic Kyle Gibson. We spun off the road twice. It was horrifying. Apparently, my car was burning oil the entire way.  

On the upside, seeing the hearing live at the Nova Scotia Supreme Court was really cool. Also, while in Halifax, I interviewed with Sheona McDonald, who is working on a Quadriga documentary. I hope to see her again in Vancouver, where she is based. 

As far as the hearing goes, the big news is that Quadriga was granted a 45-day stay and the judge gave a thumbs up to the appointment of Peter Wedlake, a senior vice president and partner with Grant Thornton, as a chief restructuring officer (CRO) for the firm.

I was struck by the number of paid professionals sitting before the judge—somewhere between eight and nine, and a few others in the back of the room. What is the hourly rate for a lawyer? And some of them had to fly in, too. 

And now, one more mouth to feed: the CRO. According to court documents, Quadriga needs a CRO for “ongoing direction” related to its affairs during its Companies’ Creditor Arrangement Act (CCAA) and in the event of an “anticipated sales process.”  

This talk of selling Quadriga is a recurring theme, so watch for it to come up again. The biggest value in the sell would likely be Quadriga’s user base. A similar effort is being made to revive Mt. Gox, the Tokyo-based crypto exchange that went bust in 2014.

The law firms for Quadriga’s affected users have so far heard from 800 creditors—not a lot, when you consider there are 115,000 affected users. But keep in mind there is no formal claims process at the moment.   

How will customer claims be evaluated? Court-appointed monitor Ernst and Young (EY) is working to gain access to the exchange’s platform data in AWS, where all the customer trades are located. (EY had to get a court order at the hearing to do so.) It will be interesting to see what the monitor finds when it cracks that egg—maybe nothing. Other trails have already been wiped clean. Quadriga has no books and six identified bitcoin cold wallets were found empty, except for an inadvertent transfer reported earlier. 

I recently wrote about WB21, the shady third-party payment processor that is holding $12 million CAD ($9 million USD) in Quadriga funds, according to court documents submitted in January. After I published the story, WB21, threatened me with legal action. I responded by posting the documents they sent. Since then, I’ve been getting anonymous threats via social media and email, telling me to stop talking about Quadriga.  

Kyle Torpey wrote how bitcoin users in Canada are being targeted with audits by the Canada Revenue Agency (CDA). It is possible this could deter some affected Quadriga users from registering their claims, particularly if they are worried about anyone finding out about their crypto investments. 

Elsewhere in the news, Kraken is offering a reward for any info leading to the finding of Quadriga’s lost coins. The US-based crypto exchange writes:  

“It is up to our sole discretion which tips warrant a reward, if any. The total of all rewards will not exceed $100,000 USD. Kraken may end this reward program at any point in time. All leads collected by Kraken will be provided to the FBI, RCMP or other law enforcement authorities, who have an active interest in this case.”

Screen Shot 2019-03-10 at 4.11.20 PM.pngKraken’s CEO Jesse Powell has done two podcasts talking about Quadriga. Why is he so interested? If you recall, Kraken acquired Canadian crypto exchange Cavirtex in January 2016, so it has some Canadian customers. A few people I spoke with speculated that Kraken may have an interest in acquiring Quadriga’s user base. Otherwise, $100,000 USD seems like a lot of money to throw around for an exchange that let go of 57 people in September.

After this post went live, Powell sent me a few comments via email. He assured me the only purpose of Kraken’s reward was to help locate more assets for the Quadriga creditors and uncover any potential foul play. I reminded him that EY is already doing its own investigation into the lost funds. As of yet, Quadriga is not a criminal case.

As for acquiring the Quadriga platform and its user base, Powell thinks the platform is worthless and the user base probably significantly overlaps with Kraken’s already. “We would be open to acquiring the client list, but it wouldn’t be for much,” he said.

He also pointed out that “a lot of money” is relative and unrelated to his firm’s earlier layoffs. “Kraken increased its profitability in September,” he said. “Would you think $100,000 USD was a lot for Amazon, who let go a few hundred people last February?”

Lest there be any lingering doubt, Globe and Mail posted convincing evidence linking Quadriga cofounder Michael Patryn to convicted felon Omar Dhanani. The two appear to be one and the same. I think we can lay that one to rest now. 

Meanwhile, The Block wrote about Patryn allegedly trading large positions on BitMEX, an unregulated exchange that lets you bet on whether the price of bitcoin will go up or down. You place all your bets in bitcoin, and you can leverage up to 100x. It’s a great way to risk losing all of your money. (I wrote about BitMEX for The Block last year.) There’s been speculation as to whether Patryn was gambling with Quadriga’s customer funds.

Earlier, Coinbase also brought up the possibility that Quadriga was operating a fractional reserve after the exchange suffered multimillion dollar losses in June 2017 due to a smart contract bug.

Bottom line: anything is possible. Nobody knew what was going on inside Quadriga — and they still don’t. The exchange had no official oversight and as of early-2016, only one person was in charge of that platform and all the money it held, and that was Gerald Cotten, the exchange’s now deceased CEO.  

More information will come out as EY continues with its work. I can only imagine the private conversations occurring between the accountants (and lawyers) as more details in the CCAA process emerge. Welcome to crypto!

Read “How the hell did we get here: a timeline of Quadriga events” for the full story.

How the hell did we get here? A timeline of Quadriga events

Screen Shot 2019-02-10 at 4.24.27 PM

QuadrigaCX, the largest cryptocurrency exchange in Canada, has gone belly up, leaving 115,000 of its customers and all of Canada wondering, “What the hell just happened?”

Some $180 million CAD worth of crypto seemingly vanished when Gerald Cotten, the founder of the exchange, died in India at the age of 30, taking with him the keys to the exchange’s offline cold wallets—which, for Quadriga customers, essentially translates into “all of your money is gone.” The exchange’s customers are collectively owed $250 million CAD in both crypto and fiat.

As is often the case, it’s never a matter of what just happened. If you dig deep enough, you’ll find that the funny business—and there was plenty of it—started long ago.

I’ve cobbled together what I could find on Quadriga and assembled it into a timeline. But before we delve into that, let me introduce you to a few more characters.

Jennifer Robertson is Cotten’s widow, a woman he bequeathed all of his worldly belongings to shortly before his death. In addition to becoming the largest shareholder of Quadriga, she now owns a yacht, an airplane and millions of dollars worth of property—assets that hordes of jilted Quadriga customers feel they now have a right to.  

And then there’s Quadriga co-founder Michael Patryn. Some people—actually, a lot of people—believe Patryn is convicted money launderer Omar Dhanani and that he changed his name to disguise his criminal past after the U.S. deported him back to Canada. I am not saying Patryn is Dhanani. I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusion. But I’d be remiss not to include Dhanani’s earlier dealings on my timeline.  

Also, a few words on how the exchange handled its banking. Quadriga had no company bank accounts. If you wanted to purchase crypto on the exchange, you would send your money to one of Quadriga’s third-party payment processors via a bank wire, an Interac e-transfer or a bank draft. Once your fiat was received, your Quadriga account would then be credited with QuadrigaCX Bucks (archive), a digital stand in for real dollars.   

According to the exchange’s website:

“All account fundings are considered to be purchases of QuadrigaCX Bucks. These are units that are used for the purposes of purchasing Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. QuadrigaCX Bucks are NOT Canadian Dollars. Any notation of $, CAD, or USD refers to an equivalent unit in QuadrigaCX Bucks, which exist for the sole purpose of buying and selling Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

QuadrigaCX is NOT a financial institution, bank, credit union, trust, or deposit business. We DO NOT take Deposits. We exist solely for the purposes of buying and selling cryptocurrencies.”

Billerfy Labs, owned and operated by José Reyes, was one of Quadriga’s payment processors. Under a shell company called Costodian, Reyes set up accounts at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, one of the top banks in Canada. Quadriga customers would send their money to one of these accounts.  

When you wanted to redeem your Quad Bucks, you would send a request to Quadriga. The exchange would forward your request to Billerfy, which would then aggregate withdrawal requests before moving large sums of money (say, $100,000 CAD at a time) out of Costodian’s accounts at CIBC to an account held by Billerfy at another bank. And from there, Billerfy would then wire the funds directly to you.

In a nutshell, that is how Quadriga moved money. It is also how the exchange got itself into a sticky situation during the crypto boom period of 2017 to 2018 when millions of dollars began pouring into Billerfy/Costodian accounts at CIBC. Banks have to comply with strict anti-money-laundering policies. This makes them averse to anything that looks like, well, money laundering.   

And with that, our story actually begins a decade and a half ago.

Timeline

October 26, 2004 — The gig is up for 20-year-old Omar Dhanani. He is one of 28 people arrested in connection with Shadowcrew, an online bazaar trading in stolen credit and debit card numbers, bank account numbers and ID’s. These items were bought primarily with e-gold, a digital currency backed by gold and silver. Criminals were drawn to e-gold because it allowed them to transfer funds with little more than an email address.  

Working out of his home in Fountain Valley, California, Dhanani was a moderator on the Shadowcrew forums. He also offered Shadowcrew members an electronic money laundering service. Send him a Western Union (FDC) money order and—for a fee of 10% of a transaction—he would filter your money through e-gold accounts, adding a extra layer of anonymity to any purchases you planned to make.

On October 4, 2014, going by the pseudonym “Voleur” (French for thief), Dhanani boasted in a chat room that he moved between $40,000 and 100,000 a week.  

[An earlier version of this timeline stated that Dhanani was 22 at the time of his arrest. He was 22 when he pled guilty to the charges more than a year later. A Globe and Mail (outline) states he was 20 at his arrest, so I’ll go with that.]

October 29, 2004 — After news of the Shadowcrew bust hits the streets, users on ponzi-promotion forum TalkGold begin discussing the possibility that “Patryn,” a prolific user on the forum, is actually Omar Dhanani. The majority of these high-yield investment programs (aka ponzi schemes) accepted e-gold.

In April 2007, the U.S. Department of Justice accused e-gold’s proprietors of money laundering, conspiracy and operating an unlicensed money transmitting business. Nevertheless, e-gold paved the way for other digital currencies, such as Liberty Reserve, to come in and take its place in underground economies.

May 5, 2005 — In a 2005 forfeiture case, which appears to be related to his previous Shadowcrew arrest, Dhanani uses the alias “Omar Patryn.” Another claimant in that case is Nazmin Dhanani, a relative of Dhanani’s. (Nazmin’s name will pop up again later on this timeline in association with a “Michael Patryn.”)

November 18, 2005 — Dhanani pleads guilty to conspiracy to commit credit and bank card fraud and ID document fraud related to his Shadowcrew arrest a year earlier. (US. DOJ, Indictment, Wired) He is sentenced to 18 months in prison. (Globe and Mail)

August 9, 2006 — Dhanani, using the alias “Omar Patryn,” is arrested for driving under the influence. He gets two years’ probation and 13 days in jail. (Case summary)

May 23, 2007 — Dhanani is released from prison.

April 4, 2008 — After the U.S. deports him back to Canada, Dhanani returns to doing what he does best: moving money. He registers Midas Gold Exchange (archive) in Calgary under “Omar Patryn.” Later, a website called Midas Gold Exchange launched at M-Gold.com offering digital currency exchange services.

Midas is a “pre-approved” third-party exchanger for Liberty Reserve, a Costa Rica-based private currency exchange with its own digital currency, LR.

Users could buy LRs for $1 apiece and use them to pay anyone else who had a Liberty Reserve account. Generally, if you wanted to buy LR, you had to go through a third-party exchanger, such as M-Gold. Exchangers bought LRs in bulk directly from Liberty Reserve and sold them off in smaller quantities, typically charging a 5% transaction fee. By using exchangers, Liberty Reserve avoided having to collect banking information on its users, which would have created a financial trail. 

A number of Midas Gold Exchange customers are displeased with Dhanani/Patryn’s level of service. They register their grievances on Complaints.com.

October 22, 2009 — “Michael Patryn” registers MPD Advertising Inc. in Vancouver, B.C. Nazmin Dhanani is listed as an officer of the company. (If you recall, the name Nazmin appeared earlier in this timeline in association with “Omar Patryn.”) MPD dissolves on August 18, 2013. (Companies of Canada)

Screen Shot 2019-04-08 at 9.55.05 PMMay 20, 2013 — Arthur Budovsky, the founder of Liberty Reserve, is arrested for running a massive money laundering enterprise. Three days later, libertyreserve.com is seized.

Shortly afterward, US authorities seize more than 30 domains registered as Liberty Reserve exchangers in a civil forfeiture case. M-Gold.com is one of them. According to court docs, “the defendant domain names were used to fund Liberty Reserve’s operations; without them, there would not have been money for Liberty Reserve to launder.”

The domain names also added another layer of anonymity to each transaction processed through Liberty Reserve, “thus directly appealing to cyber criminals who were looking to launder the proceeds of their criminal activities.”

August 21, 2013— Michael Patryn and Lovie Horner register World BJJ Corporation in Vancouver. (Government of Canada.) BJJ stands for Brazilian jiu-jitsu, a form of martial art. Court documents filed in 2019 refer to Horner as Patryn’s “partner.”

October 31, 2013 — The final curtain descends on Liberty Reserve when its co-founder pleads guilty to money laundering and operating an unlicensed money transmitter business. (DOJ.) But by now, a new digital currency called bitcoin is making headlines. Only unlike e-gold and LR, bitcoin is decentralized, so that it can’t be shut down so easily. In a 2015 video posted on Youtube, Patryn says he got involved in bitcoin in mid-2013.    

November 4, 2013 — QuadrigaCX is incorporated in Vancouver, British Columbia. (The actual operating company is 0984750 BC Ltd.) Michael Patryn is a co-founder along with 25-year-old Gerald Cotten. (Affidavit.) A big hurdle for Canadian bitcoin exchanges is banking. 

Cotten tells Decentral Talk Live:

“If you recall, back in the summer of 2013, there really weren’t many options here in Canada for people to buy and sell bitcoins…There was one exchange [Cavirtex] that was pretty much leading the pack….and then, other than that, you pretty much had to send a wire over to Japan [a reference to now-defunct bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox], if you wanted to buy Bitcoin…. You couldn’t hook up your bank account anywhere, it was just such a challenge.”

December 23, 2013 — Just before the platform launches, Quadriga registers as a money services business with the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC), the main supervisory body that oversees and regulates Canada’s financial services industry. According to Bitcoin Magazine, “While it isn’t strictly required by law, such registration is perceived by banks as a sign of legitimacy, and registration has minimized the number of banking issues [Quadriga] has had to face.”  

December 26, 2013 — QuadrigaCX launches in beta with a staff of five. Website architect Alex Hanin continues to oversee maintenance of the platform via Connect Development Ltd, a business registered in the U.K. (The Georgia Straight)

January 30, 2014 — Boasting 1,000 users, QuadrigaCX moves out of beta. The exchange is set to add dogecoin and litecoin on top of bitcoin, which it already lists. In addition, Quadriga launches Canada’s second Bitcoin ATM, where users can exchange cash for bitcoins. The plan is to open Bitcoin ATMs all over Canada. (The Georgia Straight)

April 17, 2014 — Patryn makes the final candidate list for the Bitcoin Foundation, a nonprofit advocating the use and development of Bitcoin.

[Update: a previous version of this timeline incorrectly stated that Francis Pouliot nominated Patryn. As a volunteer for the Bitcoin Foundation, part of Pouliot’s job was to organize the election process and publish candidate information on the nonprofit’s website. He did not actually nominate Patryn.] 

May 14, 2014 — In another bank workaround, Quadriga announces that it will accept gold. Users can deposit or withdraw funds from their accounts in gold bullion. Patryn tells Bitcoin Magazine, “As we have a great deal of past experience with gold trading, it was not a particularly large leap to enable XBT/XAU trades on our website.”  

Accepting gold means that Quadriga has to actually store the gold. Bitcoin Magazine appears convinced Quadriga is up to the task. The pub writes:

“Anything can be lost or stolen, of course, but QuadrigaCX is big on security. Nobody wants their funds gambled on a fractional reserve system, so all deposits are backed by gold held in their vault, which the directors have years of experience storing and securing. Full details on their storage system are obviously unavailable, but their known security measures are comforting: their office itself lies behind a barred entrance, and neighbors the office of their security company.” 

October 6, 2014Whiteside Capital Corporation, a shell company linked to Quadriga, is incorporated in British Columbia. As a holding company, it has no employees or contractors. (Affidavit)

November 12, 2014 — Ancetera Networks LTC., another shell company linked to Quadriga, is incorporated in British Columbia. Since the company’s only purpose is to hold shares, it also has no employees or contractors. (Affidavit)

January 26, 2015 — Ancetera Networks changes its name to Fintech Solutions. (BC Laws). Lovie Horner is listed as an executive (Bloomberg). Anthony Milewski, William Filtness, and Natasha Tsai are also directors. (Business Wire)

Fintech Solutions holds a total of 40,748,300 shares. Of these, Cotten holds 16,800,000 shares (41.2%); Lovie Horner owns 4,200,000 shares (10.3%); and Crypto Group, a Hong Kong Company, of which Patryn is the sole director, owns 7,095,000 shares (17.4%). (Affidavit)

January 31, 2015 — Despite the positive media coverage, Quadriga is struggling to stay afloat. According to a prospectus, the trading platform pulled in a mere $22,168 CAD in revenue during the three-month period ending January 31, 2015. The company’s net loss for the period was almost $90,000 CAD. (Globe and Mail)

February 2015 — Unable to grow the company organically, Cotten and Patryn push forward with a plan to take Quadriga public. They raise $850,000 CAD in capital from Canadian brokerage houses Haywood Securities, Jordan Capital Markets, PI Financial and Wolverton Securities.  

February 5, 2015 — According to a listing in S&P Global, Lovie Horner joins Quadriga as VP of business development. She has a background in fashion design.  

February 23, 2015 — Two of Canada’s biggest crypto exchanges shutter, making Quadriga the biggest crypto exchange in Canada. Vault of Satoshi turned off its lights on February 17, and now Cavirtex says it plans to wind down. (Bitcoin Magazine

March 3, 2015 – Quadriga officially announces its plans to go public in a reverse takeover of Whiteside Capital, the shell company set up in October.

In an episode of the #BlockTalk podcast, Patryn explains that a reverse takeover will eliminate the paperwork involved with getting listed the usual way—via an IPO. The exchange is set to trade under “Quadriga Fintech Solutions.” Public trading is expected to commence with the Canadian Securities Exchange (CSE) by early April.

Quadriga boasts it will undergo a full financial audit by Wolrige Mahon LLP“We’re excited to be able to provide an unparalleled level of transparency by merging legacy financial audits with innovative blockchain technology,” Cotten tells Bitcoin Magazine.

But after the big announcement, things go directly downhill. Quadriga burns through all of its investment capital, and Patryn brings a lawsuit against Robert Lawrence, the Vancouver businessman he enlisted to help take the company public.

Globe and Mail, which reviewed the court documents, writes:

“In Mr. Patryn’s telling, Mr. Lawrence failed to perform his duties properly and the company was never able to list. Mr. Lawrence raised a total of $850,000, of which $150,000 came from Mr. Patryn. But by June, 2015, the company had run out of money and lost 45 percent of its market share, according to Mr. Patryn’s statement of claim. Mr. Patryn said much of the money had to be spent correcting the “poor quality” of Mr. Lawrence’s work. Investors pitched in another $600,000, including $200,000 from Mr. Patryn, to keep the company from failing.

By February, 2016, Quadriga gave up on its plans to list and severed its relationship with Mr. Patryn, he said in court documents, owing to his perceived association with Mr. Lawrence. “News of his termination from QCX has materially and negatively affected his ability to secure similar work in the financial technology industry,” Mr. Patryn’s statement of claim read.

In a response, Mr. Lawrence denied the allegations and said Mr. Patryn approached him, not the other way around. Moreover, Quadriga’s failure was its own fault – and Mr. Patryn was the company’s “controlling mind,” he asserted. (Mr. Cotten is scarcely mentioned in the lawsuit.) Mr. Lawrence sought to have it dismissed. No filings have been made in the case since 2016. Mr. Lawrence could not be reached for comment.”

April 16, 2015 — With great enthusiasm, Quadriga renews its plans to install Bitcoin ATMs across Canada. According to Buying Bitcoin, “These new BitXATM machines also will be modified to allow for direct cash deposits and withdrawals from customers’ QuadrigaCX balances.” But like many of Quadriga’s plans, none of this actually happens. 

[Where did Quadriga put all that cash if it had no banking? Read my update Quadriga, Quadriga, Quadriga, which talks about how some Quadriga customers claim to have been receiving withdrawals in the form of actual boxes of cash delivered to their door.]

September 29, 2015 — According to SEDAR, Quadriga publishes its last “certification of interim filings.” In other words, its last financial audit.    

November 12, 2015 — Quadriga announces the formation of a blockchain R&D lab—Canada’s first. However, like past Quadriga projects, this one is long on hot air and short on follow through. According to the press release, the lab’s first task is to develop a “platform with two core functions: handling the onboarding and client data management for financial crime systems using the Blockchain and facilitating machine to machine (M2M) payments with Internet of Things (IoT) providers for connected cities.” 

February 29, 2016 — At this juncture, Patryn has supposedly left Quadriga. The reason, he tells Globe and Mail, is because he disagreed with Cotten’s decision to call off listing the company. Quadriga makes a passing mention on Reddit that Patryn is gone, but there is no formal announcement. On the heels of Patryn’s departure, Anthony Milewski and Lovie Horner also resign. (Business Wire)

March 8, 2016 — Quadriga is banned from selling securities altogether when the British Columbia Securities Commission issues a cease trade order. Apparently, Quadriga has not submitted a financial audit for the year ended October 31, 2015. A “Management’s Discussion and Analysis” is also missing.

March 18, 2016 — Director William Filtness and chief financial officer Natasha Tsai step down from Quadriga. Cotten is now a one-man band, managing the majority of work from his laptop, wherever he happens to be. The servers are in the cloud on Amazon Web Services. According to court documents filed in January 2019, he also “took sole responsibility” for handling the exchange’s coins.  

November 3, 2016— Quadriga enters into an agreement with Billerfy, a third-party payment processor run by José Reyes. (Interpleader order)

November 30, 2016 — Quadriga allows its FINTRAC registration to expire.

April 5, 2017 — Cotten’s partner, Jennifer Kathleen Margaret Griffith changes her last name to Robertson. (Royal Gazette.) According to CBC, she has also used the name Jennifer Forgeron in the past.

June 2, 2017 — Quadriga announces on Reddit (archive) that it has lost some 67,000 ether (ETH) worth about $14.7 million USD due to a software glitch. The ethereum contract is known, so the money is actually lost. The exchange says:

“While this issue poses a setback to QuadrigaCX, and has unfortunately eaten into our profits substantially, it will have no impact on account funding or withdrawals and will have no impact on the day to day operation of the exchange.”

July 18, 2017 — Despite his company’s recent financial setback, Cotten manages to register his 51-foot yacht “The Gulliver.” (Take a peek at the brochure.)

August 21, 2017 — Quadriga customers begin reporting delays in redeeming their Quad Bucks. In emails with clients, Cotten blames the “Canadian banking cartel” for the wire delays, saying they are out to “stifle bitcoin adoption” in the country. (Globe and Mail)

September 26, 2017 — On behalf of Billerfy, José Reyes applies to open three commercial banking accounts at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) Beaver Creek Branch. (Interpleader order)

September 27, 2017 — Reyes visits CIBC’s Bayview Village Branch, and opens personal checking, savings and US dollar accounts. (Interpleader order)

November 28, 2017 — CIBC’s anti-money laundering department reviews the Reyes’ account opening documentation at the Beaver Creek Branch. After the bank learns that Billerfy is a money service business, it closes the accounts. (Interpleader order)

November 30, 2017 — Reyes applies to open two small business banking accounts at CIBC’s Bayview Village Branch on behalf of Costodian, a shell company. One is an “expense account,” the other is a “transaction account.” Reyes tells the bank that Costodian is “[n]ot related to Billerfy’s CMO business.” (Interpleader order)

December 17, 2017 — After a spectacular run up, bitcoin reaches on all time high of nearly $20,000 USD. According to the Globe and Mail, $1.2 billion worth of bitcoin traded on Quadriga in 2017. The exchange took a commission on every trade.

December 4, 2017 – February 20, 2018 — At the height of the crypto bubble, millions of dollars flood into bank accounts that Reyes opened up at CIBC to collect Quadriga funds. In three months, 388 depositors make 465 deposits to Costodian’s “transaction account” in the total amount of $67 million CAD. (Some of the money is eventually withdrawn, leaving roughly $26 million CAD.)

December 22 – 28, 2017—Reyes transfers $2.3 million CAD from Costodian’s “transaction account” to his personal checking and savings accounts. He admits to CIBC he did not notify Quadriga prior to transferring the money to his personal accounts. (Interpleader order)

January 8, 2018 — CIBC is unsure of who the $26 million CAD belongs to, so it freezes two accounts belonging to Costodian and José Reyes. In an interpleader order, the bank asks the court to take possession of the funds and decide who they belong to —QuadrigaCX, Costodian or the depositors. Cotten fights back, claiming CIBC had no right to freeze the funds. Quadriga has already credited depositors with Quad Bucks.   

February 8, 2018 — According to the Globe and Mail, a new company 700964 NB is registered in New Brunswick as “part of a network of entities that helped move millions of dollars around so Quadriga could take deposits and facilitate withdrawals, sometimes in the form of physical bank drafts, for its clients.” Aaron Matthews, Quadriga’s director of operations, and Sarah-Lynn Matthews are listed as owners, but the address on the registration leads to a rickety trailer in a mobile home park.

February 16, 2018 — CIBC is still trying to sort out who the $26 million CAD belong to. The bank asks Jose Reyes (the person who controls the frozen accounts) if it is okay to speak to someone at Quadriga. Reyes declines, because Cotten had indicated that he was not interested in speaking with anyone at CIBC. (Interpleader order)

March 6, 2018 — Reyes finally gives CIBC the okay to contact Cotten. (Interpleader order)

March 15, 2018 — CIBC emails Cotten asking to speak with him briefly. Cotten declines and requests that CIBC only send him questions in writing. (Interpleader order)

March 21, 2018 — CIBC emails Cotten questions regarding the relationship of Quadriga with Costodian/Billerfy and the depositors, and Quadriga’s entitlement to the disputed funds. Neither Cotten, nor anyone else from Quadriga, respond. (Interpleader order)

June 8, 2018 — Cotten and Jennifer Robertson legally marry, according to Globe and Mail, who obtained the marriage certificate. Although, several Reddit posters, who claim they saw Robertson’s Facebook page, insist the couple got married on October 8, 2018.

July 2018 — Michael Patryn hires Reputation.ca to remove negative content about him on Complaints.com, where he is referenced as a money launderer. Patryn later sues Reputation.ca for not moving fast enough, according to the Globe and Mail, who reviewed the court documents.  

November 9, 2018 — The Ontario Superior Court grants CIBC an interpleader order allowing the court to take control of Quadriga/Custodian’s $26 million CAD in funds until the ownership of the funds can be established. (CoinDesk) (Globe and Mail)

November 27, 2018 — Cotten signs a will, leaving all his belongings to Robertson, including several properties, a 2017 Lexus, an airplane, a 2015 Mini Cooper and a 51-foot Jeanneau sailboat. He goes a step further and details the distribution of his assets should Robertson not survive him, even specifying that $100,000 CAD go to his dogs.

After some digging, CBC learns that Cotten’s widow has a company called Robertson Nova Property Management. Apparently, she, her husband and her company bought 16 properties between May 2016 and October 2018, worth $7.5 million CAD.

“Little is known about Ms. Robertson, who appears to have used three different surnames since she began buying real estate in Nova Scotia with Mr. Cotten in 2016,” reports Globe and Mail in February 2019.

November 30, 2018Cotten and wife Jennifer Robertson arrive in New Delhi, India. They have come to the country to celebrate their honeymoon and participate in the opening of an Angel House orphanage they sponsored. (Globe and Mail)

December 3, 2018 — Physical cash pickups up to $2,500 now available for Quadriga customers. According to the Reddit (archive) announcement: “We have partnered with selected stores to provide local cash pickup — as we have just started exploring this new method, only one store in Montreal, QC has been set up at the moment. We have another store going live next week in Cornwall, ON and hopefully many more.”

December 4, 2018 — Quadriga announces on Reddit (archive) that Ontario Superior Court is releasing the funds that CIBC held “hostage” to Costodian, its payment processor. Quadriga writes: “According to our counsel, the funds should be paid out by the end of this week.” However, new problems ensue when the court issues the funds back to Costodian in the form of bank drafts, which Custodian has trouble finding another bank to accept.

December 8, 2018 — At 5:15 p.m. Cotten and Robertson land in Jaipur, where they plan to spend four nights at the high-end Oberoi Rajvilas for $923 a night. Soon after the couple check in, Cotten gets a belly ache. At 9:45 p.m., he checks into Fortis Escorts Hospital. He spends the night at the hospital in a private room. (Globe and Mail)  

December 9, 2018 — Cotten’s condition deteriorates. At 7:26 p.m. he is declared dead due to complications of Crohn’s disease. The cause of death is cardiac arrest. (Globe and Mail.Robertson withholds the news from Quadriga customers for more than a month. Meanwhile, the exchange continues to accept deposits. (Affidavit)

December 10, 2018 — Simmi Mehra, who works at Mahatma Gandhi Medical College & Hospital, refuses to embalm Cotten’s body, in part because the body was coming from  Oberio, the hotel where Cotten had been staying, not the hospital where he died.

She later tells The Globe: “That guy [a representative from the hotel] told me the body will come from the hotel. I said: ‘Why the hotel? I’m not taking any body from the hotel, it should come from Fortis.”

December 10, 2018 — SMS Medical College issues an embalming certificate for Cotten’s body. Sangita Chauhan, who heads the anatomy department there, does not actually see the body. Instead, a junior staffer handles the processing. The body is picked up by staffers at Cotten’s hotel, Oberoi. (Globe and Mail)   

December 10, 2018 — Robertson checks out of the Oberoi and heads back to Canada “with the body,” according to the Globe and Mail.  

December 13, 2018 — Cotten’s death is registered with the Government of Rajasthan Directorate of Economics and Statistics. “The death certificate, obtained by The Globe, lists his “address at time of death” as the Oberoi Rajvilas.” However, a death certificate, later obtained by CoinDesk, lists his “place of death” as Fortis Escorts Hospital. 

December 13, 2018 — The Angel House orphanage that Cotten and Robertson funded opens in Venkatapuram, India. The money the couple donated only paid for materials. The building is still missing several doors, including one to the bathroom. And the man running the orphanage is going into debt. (Globe and Mail)

December 14, 2018 — A funeral service is held for Cotten at J.A. Snow Funeral Home in Halifax Nova Scotia. (Reddit)

Meanwhile, by December, withdrawals from Quadriga have all but ground to a halt. Reddit /r/QuadrigaCX has become awash with people complaining they cannot get their money out of the exchange. (David Gerard.)

January 14, 2019 — Quadriga finally announces that its CEO is deceased. Cotten’s widow posts an announcement on the Quadriga website explaining that Cotten passed away in India while opening an orphanage. To quell any suspicions that he ran off with everyone’s money, she bestows her husband with a host of virtuous qualities:

“Gerry cared deeply about honesty and transparency—values he lived by in both his professional and personal life. He was hardworking and passionate, with an unwavering commitment to his customers, employees, and family.”

Robertson also recommends that Quadriga’s head of operations Aaron Matthews assume the role of interim president and CEO. Later, it appears Matthews denies he is CEO. 

Meanwhile, Quadriga’s customers are now having trouble getting their crypto out of the exchange. There is no reason for this. Crypto should move directly from the exchange to the customer. This leads to concern that maybe the funds aren’t actually there.

January 22, 2019 — Robertson sends a petition to the Supreme Court of British Columbia requesting a shareholder meeting to appoint new board members to Quadriga, because effectively, the company has no board.

January 25, 2019 — Quadriga holds a shareholder meeting (Michael Patryn, Lovie Horner, and Jennifer Robertson). Robertson, her stepfather Thomas Beazley, and a man named Jack Martel are appointed as new directors. They decide to suspend Quadriga’s operations, but hold off on sharing this news with Quadriga’s customers. (Affidavit)

January 26, 2019 — The newly appointed directors instruct that the platform be paused. According to affidavit Robertson files on January 31, “The pause will mean that future trades of cryptocurrency will be temporarily suspended, including the settlement of cash or the trading of currency between users.”

January 28, 2019 — The board meeting was on a Friday. All weekend long, anxious Quadriga customers wait to hear some news. On Monday, they wake to find a large notice on the exchange’s website indicating the site is down for maintenance. (CoinDesk)

January 29, 2019 — Cotten’s widow moves to protect her property. According to the Chronicle Herald, at the end of January, “Robertson took her deceased husband’s name from the ownership of the four properties, worth a combined $1.1 million, then took out collateral mortgages on all four in favour of a trust of which she is a trustee, and finally transferred ownership of at least two of those properties to that trust.” The name of the trust is the Seaglass Trust.

January 31, 2019 — Quadriga’s website remains in “maintenance mode” for three long, nail-biting days. Then a new notice appears, basically stating the company is bankrupt. Quadriga’s board members have applied for creditor protection (affidavit) with the Nova Scotia Supreme Court. A preliminary hearing is set for February 5.

Buried in the notice is alarming news. Quadriga is scrambling to locate its cold wallets. Most exchanges typically keep the majority of their crypto in offline wallets for security reasons. The situation, is akin to a bank misplacing all of its money.

February 5, 2019 — Represented by Maurice Chaisson, a lawyer with Stewart McKelvey, Quadriga appears in court for its creditor protection hearing. The court appoints Ernst & Young (EY) as a monitor in charge of tracking down the $250 million CAD collectively owed to Quadriga’s customers. The exchange is also granted a 30-day stay, meaning customers are unable to sue the exchange in that time. (CoinDesk.) Quadriga updates its website with a new announcement (archive.)

February 5, 2019 — With keys to the exchange’s cold wallets gone missing, many are wondering if Cotten staged his death. CoinDesk posts a death certificate with Cotten’s name misspelled as “Cottan.” Apparently, fake death certificates are easy to come by in India.

February 7, 2019 — Fortis Escorts, the hospital in Jaipur, India where Cotten passed, releases a statement confirming his death. Cotten arrived the hospital in a “critical condition” with “pre-existing Crohn’s disease and was on monoclonal antibody therapy every 8th week.” He was diagnosed with septic shock and other horrible things. (CoinDesk)

February 8, 2019 CoinDesk reports that crypto funds were moving through the Quadriga platform up to Cotten’s death. In a series of transactions sent from the exchange’s internet-connected hot wallets, more than 9,000 ETH moved from Quadriga to a handful of other exchanges, including Binance, Bitfinex, Kraken and Poloniex. Most of that crypto was transferred the week before Cotten’s death, but there is no telling who initiated the transactions—the exchange, its customers, or both.

February 8, 2019 — The Ontario Securities Commission announces that it will look into Quadriga. (Reuters). The news comes just days after the British Columbia Securities Commission said it had no reach into the exchange. (Reuters)

February 11, 2019 — Jack Martel resigns from Quadriga’s board of directors, leaving Jennifer Robertson and her stepfather Thomas Beazley as the only two directors.

February 12, 2019 — Things just keep getting worse for Quadriga creditors. In its initial report, the monitor reveals that on February 6—a day after Quadriga was granted creditor protection—the exchange “inadvertently” sent 104 of the bitcoin it was holding in its hot wallets (worth $468,675 CAD) to its dead CEO’s cold wallet.

The hot wallets now contain 51 bitcoin, 33 bitcoin cash, 2,032 bitcoin gold, 822 litecoin, and 951 ether—worth $434,068 CAD, less than half the value of what they held before.

February 14, 2019 — Nova Scotia Supreme Court Judge Michael Wood appoints law firms Miller Thomson and Cox & Palmer to represent the more than 115,000 Quadriga creditors throughout the CCAA proceedings. Miller Thomson is the lead counsel located in Toronto; Cox & Palmer is the local counsel. The scope of their work is spelled out here.

February 20, 2019 — In its second monitor report, Ernst & Young reveals that the sending of 104 bitcoin to Quadriga’s cold wallets earlier was due to a “platform setting error.” The CCAA process is also running low on funds. EY is in possession of millions of dollars in bank drafts from Quadriga and its payment processors. The problem is getting banks to accept the funds. (Read my story here.)

February 22, 2019 — The court issues a “Banking arrangement order” at the request of Ernst and Young (EY). The order offers limited protection to the Bank of Montreal (BOM) and the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) for handling bank drafts related to Quadriga and its payment processors. And, with regard to a disputed $5 million CAD bank draft, $60,958.64 of that is to be paid to Costodian principal Jose Reyes, because EY determined that these were his personal funds. And $778,213.94, which Custodian claims it is owed in unpaid transaction fees, will go into trust account pending further order of the court.

February 25, 2019 — Robertson files a second affidavit. In it, she asks for an extension of the stay of proceedings in the CCAA and the appointment of Peter Wedlake, a senior vice president and partner at tax and accounting firm Grant Thornton, to the position of chief restructuring officer (CRO) for Quadriga. The CRO would fill the director position left vacant by Jack Martel stepping down on February 11. Thornton apparently has cryptocurrency experience and is a “certified bitcoin professional.

February 28, 2019Globe and Mail (archive) tracks down a booking photo of Omar Dhanani and posts it alongside a screengrab of Michael Patryn taken from a Youtube video off the internet. The two faces look strikingly similar.

March 5, 2019 — Justice Michael Wood grants Quadriga a 45-day stay and approves the appointment of a chief restructuring officer (CRO). (My coverage here and here.)

March 13, 2019 — The law firm representing Quadriga in the CCAA proceedings tells the court that it is stepping down, effective immediately. Stewart McKelvey had been representing both Quadriga and the estate of Quadriga’s dead CEO, which led to concerns of a potential conflict of interest from the monitor and the representative counsel. Stewart McKelvey will continue to represent Robertson’s estate.

March 19, 2019Bloomberg straight out announces that Michael Patryn is Omar Dhanani. Reporters tracked down the actual documents showing two name changes. “Patryn changed his name from Omar Dhanani to Omar Patryn with the British Columbia government in March 2003. Five years later, he registered a name change to Michael Patryn in the same Canadian province.”

March 19, 2019 — The representative counsel in Quadriga’s CCAA now have a voice to listen to. Miller Thomson and Cox & Palmer appointed a steering committee to help them represent 115,000 of the exchange’s creditors. The members include: Parham Pakjou, David Ballabh, Eric Bachour, Ryan Kneer, Magdalena Gronowska, Eric Stevens and Nicolas Deziel, with Richard Kagerer and Marian Drumea assigned as alternates.

April 2, 2109 — EY releases its fourth monitor report. The monitor proposes that Quadriga shift from its Companies’ Creditor Arrangement Act (CCAA) proceedings into proceedings under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (BIA). EY is moving to preserve Robertson’s assets, so that she can’t liquidate or transfer them. And the monitor is also grappling with a host of former Quadriga third-party payment processors.

April 8, 2019 — Quadriga is officially placed into bankruptcy.  The transition means EY will be granted enhanced investigative powers as a trustee.

April 18, 2019 — Justice Wood extends Quadriga’s creditor protection to June 28. On that date, the CCAA proceeding will expire and Quadriga will enter a pure bankruptcy.  

May 10, 2019 — EY publishes its “Trustee’s Preliminary Report.” The report is dated May 1, but appears to have been published several days later. The report reveals what many Quadriga creditors likely already know — effectively saying, “you’re money is all gone.” The company has US$21 million in assets, but owes creditors US$160 million.

June 19, 2019 — Quadriga’s fifth report of the monitor is published, revealing huge amounts of money left the exchange through a single fake account “Chris Markay.”

October 7, 2019 — Jennifer Robertson agrees to turn over roughly CA$12 million (US$9 million) in assets to EY Canada, the bankruptcy trustee for QuadrigaCX. In a statement, she said she had “previously thought [the assets] were purchased with Gerry’s legitimately earned profits, salary and dividends.”

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