(Reuters) – A reclusive Japanese American man thought to be the father of Bitcoin emerged from his Southern California home and denied any involvement with the digital currency, before leading reporters on a car chase leading to the headquarters of the Associated Press.
Satoshi Nakamoto, a name known to legions of bitcoin traders, practitioners and boosters around the world, appeared to lose his anonymity on Thursday after Newsweek published a story that said Nakamoto lived in Temple City, California, just east of Los Angeles, and included a photograph.
Dozens of reporters encircled a modest two-story house thought to be his residence on Thursday morning. No one answered the doorbell, though several times, someone pulled back the drapes on an upstairs window, suggesting the person was keeping an eye on the street.
In the afternoon, Nakamoto stepped outside and told reporters he had nothing to do with bitcoin but was looking for someone who understood Japanese, to buy him a free lunch.
An AP reporter said yes, and the two made their way to a nearby sushi restaurant with media in tow, before leaving and heading downtown.
According to a Los Angeles Times reporter, who followed his car, Nakamoto was driven to the Associated Press offices in downtown Los Angeles, where he again denied any involvement with bitcoin.
Bitcoin enthusiasts have come under fire in recent weeks, following the sensational collapse of Mt. Gox, once among the largest of the bitcoin exchanges, and the closure of Flexcoin, a Canadian bitcoin lender.
The collapse of Mt. Gox has shaken confidence in the digital currency, which advocates believe will smooth financial transactions across the world. Opponents criticize it as a risky, unregulated investment.
Bitcoin is a digital currency that, unlike conventional money, is bought and sold on a peer-to-peer network independent of central control. Its value soared last year, and the total worth of bitcoins minted is now about $7 billion.
(Reporting by Brandon Lowrey; and Aron Ranen, writing by Edwin Chan, editing by Peter Henderson)
Photos: A man widely believed to be Bitcoin currency founder Satoshi Nakamoto is surrounded by reporters as he leaves his home in Temple City, California March 6, 2014. David McNew, Reuters