Back in late February 2014, Daniel was engrossed in trading bitcoin on Mt. Gox, a Tokyo-based cryptocurrency platform. Suddenly, the site went blank and froze. Panicked, Daniel sought answers on the Bitcoin Talk forum, where rumors were already swirling: Mt. Gox was in crisis.

Living in Europe and a university student at the time, Daniel had invested nearly all his savings in bitcoin on Mt. Gox. When the platform went offline, he remembers entering a state of extreme worry. The funds were crucial for financing the remainder of his studies.

On the 28th of February that year, Mt. Gox declared bankruptcy. The company disclosed that a massive amount of bitcoin—valued at $400 million at the time, now worth $45 billion—had been stolen in an intricate theft. With hardly any funds left, Mt. Gox was unable to process withdrawals.

This marked the beginning of an arduous journey for Mt. Gox customers, who have spent the past ten years navigating a complex and bureaucratic corporate restructuring in a bid to recover their lost bitcoin. WIRED interviewed eight former Mt. Gox customers, almost all of whom, like Daniel, chose to remain anonymous to safeguard their financial privacy. They all shared a common experience marked by bewilderment, numerous setbacks, and a frustrating lack of agency.

“The initial few weeks were unbearable,” recollects Daniel, who spiraled into depression during this period and turned to alcohol. Despite eventually securing a loan to complete his education, Daniel resorted to credit card fraud for a while to replace the stolen funds, rationalizing that the cardholders were insured and would face no harm. After narrowly eluding detection, he sought steady employment, although at that point, he had “essentially surrendered to fate,” as per Daniel.

A decade later, Mt. Gox customers are on the brink of reclaiming their bitcoin. On the 24th of June, the trustee overseeing the estate, seasoned bankruptcy attorney Nobuaki Kobayashi, stated that crypto reimbursements would commence from July onwards. The coins began to be disbursed from Friday.

In an unusual twist, Mt. Gox customers could potentially profit from their involvement in the bankruptcy. Since only a fraction of the stolen bitcoin was recovered, customers are expected to receive approximately 15% of their original holdings. Nevertheless, the dramatic surge in bitcoin’s value over the years means that the current dollar amount of the recovered coins significantly surpasses the value of their initial investment. In total, over $9 billion worth of bitcoin will be restituted. “I’ve witnessed the crypto realm fluctuate, collapse, and resurge,” remarks Daniel. “I monitor the bitcoin charts daily.”

Launched in 2010 by Jed McCaleb, a pioneering figure in bitcoin from the US, Mt. Gox was eventually acquired in 2011 by Mark Karpelès, a young developer from France, who transformed it into the largest cryptocurrency exchange globally. By 2013, approximately 75% of all bitcoin trades worldwide were passing through Mt. Gox.