As Mark Karpeles was being arrested on August 1, 2015, his former employee Ashley Barr, who operated under the name “Adam Turner,” took to Reddit to answer questions about his time at Mt.Gox.
In his introduction, Barr wrote, “I was hired by Mark [Karpeles] in June 2011 to help him handle the crazy inbox at Mt.Gox during bitcoin’s initial rally. In January 2012 I was asked to become Mt.Gox’s CEO, a process which led to my dismissal in May 2012. My statement along with other ex-employees have led the Tokyo Metro Police’s arrest on embezzlement and ‘illegal manipulation of accounting.’
“We plan to eat pizza in front of Mark while he is in prison…”
Barr talked openly about the work culture at Mt.Gox while he was there and about Karpeles in particular.
Barr wrote, “All in all, I felt Mt.Gox was [a role-playing game] to Mark, as he didn’t quite grasp the reality that the money being in deposited into his bank account meant more to other people than just numbers on his screen.”
In the post, Barr took the opportunity to clarify what his role was during his time at Mt.Gox. He also wrote at length about what he knew of the company’s state of affairs. He explained that Karpeles had wanted Barr to take over as CEO, a position Barr declined when he realized that he couldn’t get access to the information necessary to paint a clear picture of the company’s financial situation.
“Basically, after Mark asked me to be CEO, I tried my best at due-diligence. I asked Mark to show me the financials of the company. He wouldn’t, or feigned that he would do it later, all while pressuring me to take the role.”
Barr asserted that his “due diligence” unearthed discrepancies in the company’s financials.
“I confronted Mark about it, told him I couldn’t take the role if he couldn’t explain this gross incompetence in spending (he was also asking employees other than myself to find investors…something impossible without knowing the financial status of the company).”
Around the same time, we learned that Mark only had one bank account, shared with Mt.Gox’s customer deposits. That was the nail in the coffin.”
Barr went on to describe Karpeles’s response to being confronted with allegations of financial wrongdoing:
“…his answer was simply: ‘My grandmother lives in a castle in Switzerland.’ That was it. That was all, we couldn’t get him to explain it. He just ignored the rest of our inquiries. It. was. insane.”
Barr went on to make the stunning assertion that Mt.Gox’s only bank account, the one that held customer deposits, was actually Karpeles’s own personal account.
Barr also revealed his strong belief that Mt.Gox had no cold storage for any funds stored on the exchange.
“[Karpeles] said there were many cold-wallets, what I witnessed was one hot wallet…
All I know is that BTC was sitting there when Mark logged in. How he would have moved it from cold storage into a single wallet on a remote-desktop, I have no idea… it’s possible, but I don’t know how to prove it.”
Furthermore, Barr said that Karpeles was the only one with the keys to any of the wallets.
“Mark said that if he died there would be hints that one of his best friends could follow to find and unlock the cold-wallets. When I asked said friend, he said he had no idea what Mark was talking about.”
Regarding the missing 200,000 BTC that were lost and then mysteriously recovered by Karpeles, Barr said, “When I read the news, I was surprised to hear that 200,000 coins were recovered. My first thought was… of course… [expletive]. How is that even [expletive] possible… I guess, to be more specific. I mean, even in usual terms, not knowing if my bank account has $8000 vs $2000 dollars is pretty [expletive] significant…Sorry, I dunno what to conclude but it feels like a lie, or gross ineptitude… either way it’s really, very, upsetting.”
However, as for whether or not he thinks that Karpeles actually committed robbery, Barr was non-committal.
“I think gross incompetence happened, and Mark tried to cover it up. I don’t believe he is outright malicious, but certainly ignorantly-malicious. If it’s an A) or B) question, I believe he lost them [the missing bitcoins], but considering other s*** I’ve seen… I really can’t be certain.”
On a personal level, Barr’s opinion of his former employer was conflicted.
“[Karpeles] had (has) the ego of someone wanting to prove themselves, some anti-social behaviors, some social behaviors, and everything in between. He’s still a mystery to me, and absolutely unpredictable.
When asked if he wanted authorities to “throw the book” at Karpeles, Barr’s response was similarly measured.
“My honestly feeling is I liked Mark, as just… a geek. I’m a geek, I get other geeks. We’re all wired differently but similarly and I enjoyed that about him. I think most others had the same experience, and I think it reflects in his media personality (harmless, but awkward and untrustworthy)…. He’s not evil, just he justifies the things he thinks [he needs] to do to preserve whatever image he has for himself.”