Bitcoin Clue: Patrick Paige, with the hard drives, in the conservatory

Bitcoin Clue: Patrick Paige, with the hard drives, in the conservatory

November 17, 2021

What Bitcoin secrets might Dave Kleiman’s friend Patrick Paige have learned when he retrieved several hard drives from his dead friend’s apartment?

The blockbuster civil trial brought by Ira Kleiman against Dr. Craig Wright is now in its third week, but the Day 2 testimony of witness Patrick Paige curiously failed to ignite much speculation regarding his possible role in the trial’s central question: who controls the estimated 1.1 million BTC tokens stashed away by Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto?

Day 9 of the trial saw Wright, the individual behind the Satoshi Nakamoto pseudonym credited with authoring the Bitcoin white paper, take the stand for the fourth time. Ira’s attorneys introduced dozens of emails into the record, getting Wright’s recognition of each message on the record and asking him if any of them are forgeries. Wright’s response was unequivocal: “I have never forged an email.”

Ira’s camp then called digital forensics expert Dr. Matthew Edman to testify that certain emails purporting to be from Dave Kleiman to Wright were indeed forgeries. Edman claimed that one email purportedly sent by Dave to Wright in 2012—in which Dave appears to discuss control over a major cache of BTC tokens—was actually created in 2014.

Since Dave died in April 2013, Edman testified that somebody—Wright being the Kleiman camp’s preferred candidate—must have had control of Dave’s PGP (Pretty Good Protection) encryption key, which was used to sign the email.

The idea that an acknowledged security expert such as Dave Kleiman would have willingly shared his PGP private key with anyone—even with someone with whom he was close, such as Dr. Wright—seems more than a little unlikely. However, there are other ways that Dave’s key could have fallen into someone else’s possession.

As executor of Dave’s estate, Ira took possession of Dave’s belongings, including numerous hard drives. Some of these drives obviously contained Dave’s private information, as Ira has testified that he engages in a truly bizarre ritual every year on his birthday—signing into Dave’s email accounts and writing a happy birthday email to himself from ‘Dave.’ Whether Ira is technically savvy enough to handle a PGP signature remains unknown, but there is yet another alternative narrative.

Turn the Paige

In the mid-90s, Patrick Paige helped train Dave Kleiman when the latter joined the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. Dave returned the favor by schooling Paige in computer forensics. The pair later started a company together, Computer Forensics, LLC, which is still in operation today.

Paige testified that Wright contacted him following Dave’s death, telling Paige to “make sure that if Dave had any equipment or any computers or hard drives, that we save them, that [Dave] potentially could have bitcoin wallets on them.”

In his April 8, 2019, deposition, Ira Kleiman testified that Paige approached him following Dave’s death, seeking “three or four” hard drives that Paige claimed held data relevant to his and Dave’s computer business. Ira said he handed these drives over to Paige without first ascertaining their contents, and while he later sought the return of these drives, Paige declined to do so.

Ira also gave Paige a Samsung Galaxy phone that belonged to Dave in the hopes that Paige would be able to unlock it. The phone was never returned, and the complaint that Ira later filed against Paige claimed that Paige “had thrown away the phone after he had dropped the phone and cracked the screen,” which seems pretty odd behavior for someone with Paige’s credentials.

Ira also sued Paige to prevent Paige from “monetizing, transferring or otherwise converting” any BTC held in wallets belonging to Dave. Paige eventually handed Ira control of some Dave-related web domains but denied having any of Dave’s BTC wallets, nor any BTC of any provenance. 

What motivates you?

When he left the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s office in 2011, Paige spent the next 10 years working in computer forensics. He was a member of the Computer Crimes Unit and serves as a forensic expert witness. His current work bio states that Paige “has testified in State, Federal, Appellate, and Military courts as a computer expert.”

In other words, Paige would appear to be a qualified candidate to understand how PGP encryption operates. And Dave’s private PGP key might have been among the treasures stashed away on the digital devices Paige took from Dave’s apartment following his demise.

Could Paige have been the source of that 2012/14 email from Dave to Wright? As yet, there’s no hard evidence suggesting so, but if Dave’s hard drives did contain BTC wallets, Paige would have a strong incentive to redirect Ira’s suspicion away from himself. And given Wright’s stated interest in the subject of Bitcoin, he would have made a tempting target for such a redirection.

Ira’s attorneys are likely to wrap up their efforts once Edman’s testimony concludes, presumably sometime Tuesday. After that, Wright’s attorneys will finally have a chance to present their case, which may finally unlock the mystery of Dave’s PGP keys.

Check out all of the CoinGeek special reports on the Kleiman v Wright YouTube playlist.

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