In October 2018, Jennifer Robertson was living the life of her dreams. She had just married her best friend, Gerald “Gerry” Cotten, in a ceremony at a Scottish castle; she had recently started a property management business; and, using money from Cotten’s incredibly profitable Bitcoin exchange, she and Cotten had spent the past two years traveling the world in style, visiting everywhere from Malta to Dubai to Morocco to Paris. For their honeymoon, the couple traveled to India – where Cotten, just 30, died suddenly from a complications from his Crohn’s disease. Following his death, Robertson, along with the rest of the world, discovered that Cotten had scammed people using his exchange, QuadrigaCX (commonly referred to as Quadriga). Cotten’s duplicity is the subject of Trust No One: The Hunt for the Crypto King, the latest in Netflix’s growing library of scammer documentaries. One of the main questions the film asks is whether Robertson knew about Cotten’s scheme before his death.
Throughout the film, crypto investors who have lost money through the Quadriga exchange – in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars – voice their belief that Robertson must have been involved in the Cotten scam, that she may have killed him, or even that she killed her former husband (who is, in fact, very much alive). After her death, online trolls harassed Robertson so aggressively that she had to change her phone number and email address, shut down her social media accounts, and temporarily move into a safe house. All the while, she said, she was trying to come to terms with the idea that her husband had been a con man and that the life they had lived together was over. After spending a few years out of the spotlight, she emerged to tell her full story in her memoir. Bitcoin Widow: Love, Betrayal, and Missing Millionsco-written with Stephen Kimber.
Read on to find out how Robertson and Cotten met, what happened to Robertson after his death, and where she is now.
How did Jennifer Robertson and Gerry Cotten meet?
Robertson and Cotten met on a Tinder date in 2014 when they were both around 26 years old. Robertson had previously been briefly married to another man, whom she had divorced; now single again, she was on the dating app. The match was not love at first sight: like Robertson reminded to The Globe and Mail earlier this year, she found Cotten disappointing at first. She also didn’t know what bitcoin was, so she wasn’t upset by him telling her he was running a bitcoin exchange. Soon, however, the couple grew closer: they talked “about everything and nothing” for hours, she said The Globe and Mail. And the fact that Cotten got rich quick in the first two years of their relationship didn’t really hurt.
Cotten’s money allowed them to travel a lot and in style, something Robertson liked. A vanity lounge report on Quadriga notes that between 2016 and Cotten’s death in 2018, Robertson documented his travels to Machu Picchu, Dubai, Oman, Myanmar, the Maldives, and Rio de Janeiro. She and Cotten often traveled in private jets and when they arrived at their destination, they took advantage of the best hotels and cruises. Back home, they invest in equally luxurious real estate. In an excerpt from bitcoin widowPosted in Morse, Robertson wrote, “I won’t lie: I loved being rich. … We could buy a house in Nova Scotia, another in British Columbia, even our own island with a yacht — not just a sailboat — to get us there. We could travel to exotic places.
Considering the money Cotten and Robertson were spending, it’s understandable that many – including some examiners of her memoirs – are skeptical of her claims that she knew nothing of the offenses committed by Cotten. Without being able to read his mind, it’s impossible to really know what happened.
What happened to Jennifer Robertson after Gerry Cotten’s death?
Robertson herself admits that she saw her marriage through “the color pink [sic] glasses”, but these glasses were forcibly removed after Cotten’s untimely death in India. Robertson could not access Cotten’s devices, which meant that she – and everyone else – was locked out of Quadriga. People who had transferred money on the exchange and tried to withdraw money could not access their money, which in some cases meant that they lost access to large sums. Ernst and Young would like investigate the business and stating, in June 2019, that Cotten had used money in the exchange for his own purposes, including trading other people’s assets to other exchanges using multiple fictitious accounts. According to Ernst and Youngan accounting firm appointed by the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) to investigate Quadriga, “family members expected to receive an email containing critical information about the operation of Quadriga. Quadriga” – that is, a “dead man’s switch” – “within days of news of Mr. Cotten’s passing”, which would have allowed Robertson to take over management of the exchange and return the money to the people who requested it. But, “Neither the monitor nor the other people involved in the organization are aware of the receipt of a dead man’s change email .” And as investigators found, in many cases the money wasn’t there to be returned at all: Cotten had spent it himself.
As she tells it, Robertson was left with the mystery of her husband’s true identity and personality. Was he the ‘kindest, most caring and loving husband’ and ‘best friend’ she remembered or was he someone who, according to an investigator who went through his computers, had “psychopathic tendencies”? It was one thing to try to make him realize that Cotten had scammed Quadriga users out of money; it was quite another to find out that he had run his first online ponzi scheme when he was 15 – and never stopped. And while she tried to sort through her emotions, she was harassed by internet users who didn’t believe her husband was dead.
But Robertson was just one of those affected by the Cotten scam: After his death, Quadriga users lost more than $200 million, something Ernst and Young tried to recover. Bitcoin that only Cotten could access was lost, but the company could go after more concrete assets, including most of what Robertson owned. According to Robertson’s account of the settlement process, she initially resisted the deals offered by Ernst and Young, but when she realized the full extent of Cotten’s duplicity, she realized there was no alternative – and that his assets were the by-product of stolen goods. The settlement she reached with Ernst and Young in October 2019 required her to hand over cash and investments as well as real estate and vehicles, and allowed her to keep $90,000 in cash, her plan personal retirement savings account (worth $20,000), personal car (a Jeep), jewelry (including wedding band, but not engagement ring), clothing and some furniture. In his statement at the time, she says“This settlement will allow me to move on to the next chapter of my life.”
Where is Jennifer Robertson now?
Robertson currently lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with his companion and their Chihuahuas Nitro and Gully. She share his time between working as a waitress and studying for her teaching degree. She hopes to become an elementary school teacher. Earlier this year she released her memoir, bitcoin widow, mentioned above. With her companion, she is expecting a girl.