When I present this very mundane answer to him, Broeksmit is unconvinced.
He keeps creating new tokens, watching their value skyrocket, then deflate a few days later. But the reality of what is going on eventually catches up with him. As of February 19, the balance of his wallet is zero. (So is mine.) His rage toward Incognito is monumental. He says he has paid some of his friends and acquaintances with custom coins, and that now those people are angry at him. “It’s a nightmare,” he says.
Alongside his custom tokens, he says he’s lost all the money—in mainstream cryptocurrencies—that he had invested in the first place to pump up his custom currencies. In one of our calls, I again try to get an exact figure for his losses, but he won’t say. “I can’t tell you right now, Marie will get pissed off,” he says. Peter-Toltz, in the background, proposes leaving the room, but Broeksmit stops her. “Just everything we had,” he adds.
Then, things go quiet for a few weeks, barring the occasional text.
On April 5, I receive a call at 6 pm London time. It is Broeksmit. He sounds upset. Everything is lost, he says. They’ve lost the court case, they’ve been evicted from their loft. Most importantly, Peter-Toltz is missing. “We were parking to go sneak into our house—and now I just can’t find Marie,” Broeksmit tells me. “She’s gone.” I suggest Peter-Toltz might have gone to stay with some friends. “Friends? We don’t have friends now,” he says.
It is now clear that Broeksmit had fallen in love with a mirage. Buffeted by personal adversities and financial difficulties, he had grasped for a miraculous fix and found the get-rich-quick delusion that permeates the worst corners of the cryptocurrency world.
Court records later uncovered by Motherboard show that a day after our last interaction, on April 9, Broeksmit is arrested and placed under a restraining order, forbidding him from getting close to the loft again. A “ghost gun” with no serial number is found in his car. He is released shortly afterward. He again enters the property four days later, on April 13. Then, a long period of silence—until April 23, when someone texts me from Broeksmit’s Signal account. It isn’t him. The text reads: “Marie has been found and now we need to find Val who is missing.” I ask who is writing. No one answers.
On April 25, Broeksmit’s lifeless body is found on the grounds of a high school, not far from where he had previously lived. An investigation on the cause of his death is pending, but initial police reports rule out foul play. The LAPD officer in charge of the inquiry does not reply to a request for comment via email. Marie Peter-Toltz, despite what the anonymous texter told me, is currently a missing person according to the California Department of Justice, and she hasn’t replied to my texts, emails, and Twitter direct messages. Inevitably, Broeksmit’s death has become fodder for a cottage industry of conspiracists, striving to see in the death of a one-time whistleblower the work of some evil cabal.
But I feel I knew the man behind the whistleblowing persona, who would often delight in asking about mundane things like my dating life between sharing wild claims and tall tales. The news of his death shocks me. Broeksmit’s plan for crypto alchemy had backfired, and sent him down a spiral that ended with his life being cut short. I’m left with a story I had promised to write, piecing it together by going through reams of texts and emails and hours of conversations with a man who desperately wanted to be taken seriously.
“Be kind to us when you write about this,” one of Broeksmit’s final texts reads. “Please, write me fair.”