Palm Beach News

Riviera Beach Man Helped Invent Bitcoin

Reports are saying that an ex-cop from Riviera Beach is behind an incredible mystery that has fascinated the tech world for years. 

Bitcoin is an experimental digital currency that uses open source software to transfer money instantaneously, without the need for banks or governments. Its creator launched bitcoin in 2009, using the name — likely a pseudonym — Satoshi Nakamoto. Partly because staying anonymous helped the currency gain legitimacy, the real person or people behind Satoshi have never been revealed — until now, possibly. 

At 6 p.m. last night, Wired magazine ran a story suggesting that it may have figured out the mystery. The magazine had received emails, sent from an anonymous hacker, which pointed to an Australian computer genius named Dr. Craig Wright  as the creator. Wright is described on one of his company's websites as "certifiably the world's most foremost IT security expert." 

Wired laid out a trail of evidence suggesting the likelihood that Satoshi Nakamoto is Wright. The story mentions that Wright confided in, and worked closely with, an American named Dave Kleiman. In a purported email between the two men in 2008, prior to bitcoin's launch, Wright wrote to Kleiman, "I need your help... I have been working on a new form of electronic money. Bitcash, bitcoin... You have always been there for me Dave. I want you to be a part of it all." Documents suggest Kleiman also agreed to manage a trust of bitcoin money — apparently a maneuver to evade tax authorities. 

Shortly after the Wired story went live, Gizmodo published a story revealing that it too had received the anonymous emails pointing to Wright and had been working the story for a month. The Gizmodo story provides many more details about Kleiman, including that he was a former Palm Beach County Sheriff's deputy who had been injured in a motorcycle accident and died in 2013. 

A little digging by New Times reveals that Kleiman was a former Army soldier who has twice been married and divorced. After his 1995 accident, he was confined to a wheelchair.  Still, as his website and LinkedIn pages show, he worked as a forensic computer expert. He was featured as an expert on many news programs:

In an online obituary, Kleiman's father, who adopted the boy, described him as "brilliant." Kleiman's business partner, Patrick Paige, another ex-PBSO detective, said was extremely generous and "very secluded in a lot of things that he did." 

Kleiman was in a accident at age 28 while off duty. Paige told Gizmodo that Kleiman spent three of his last years in the hospital and died of a MRSA infection at age 46. 

Two sentences in the Gizmodo story made his death sound suspicious. "His body was found decomposing and surrounded by empty alcohol bottles and a loaded handgun. Bloody feces was tracked along the floor, and a bullet hole was found in his mattress." These details were taken from records from the Palm Beach Medical Examiner's Office. But the complete records (below) show that because a gun was found next to his body, the case was investigated as a suicide, but there was no trauma to the body and an autopsy found it to be a natural death. 

Messages left with both Price and with the friend who found Kleiman's body were not immediately returned. 

After Kleiman's death, Paige said, Wright made an emotional video tribute to Kleiman, which seemed odd. (The video has been taken down.) Eventually, Paige claims, Wright told him via phone that Kleiman had been involved in creating bitcoin. Paperwork for a Florida corporation showed Kleiman as a principal but also listed an Australian address connected to Wright. 

If Kleiman were an inventor of bitcoin, it's pretty crazy that he never cashed in his fortune. He owned a $155,000 house in Riviera Beach and was facing foreclosure. Gizmodo estimated that the value of bitcoin he would have possessed at the time of his death would be worth at least $65 million. 

One of his brothers, Ira Kleiman, also of Palm Beach Gardens, is in charge of his estate and was cagey with Gizmodo. 

Hours after the stories went live, Wright's house in Australia was reportedly raided by police for a tax matter and Wright's Twitter and YouTube accounts went dark. 

Both the Gizmodo and Wired stories say it's possible that the trail of evidence leading to Wright and Kleiman is a hoax. In 2014, Newsweek ran a cover story declaring that a California man was likely Satoshi Nakamoto; he denied it and sued, an embarrassment for the magazine.

Online, people in the tech community were hotly debating whether Satoshi had finally been unmasked or whether this could be another hoax.