DOJ Arrests Couple In Connection With $4.5 Billion Cryptocurrency Hack – An American couple has been arrested on suspicion of conspiring to launder cryptocurrency stolen from the 2016 hack of Bitfinex, virtual currency exchange with a market capitalization of $4.5 billion.
Law enforcement has seized over $4.5 billion in cryptocurrencies linked to the hack by Ilya Lichtenstein, 34, and his wife, Heather Morgan, 31, both of New York, according to a statement from the US Department of Justice.
Lichtenstein and Morgan are accused of conspiring to launder money and conspiracy to defraud the United States, each of which carries a maximum punishment of 20 years in prison.
After considering the US Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory criteria, a federal district court judge will impose any sentence.
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According to court records, Lichtenstein and Morgan plotted to launder the earnings of 119,754 bitcoin stolen from Bitfinex’s platform when a hacker infiltrated the company’s servers and initiated over 2,000 unlawful transactions. The stolen bitcoin was sent to a digital wallet controlled by Lichtenstein as a result of the illicit activities.
Approximately 25,000 of the stolen bitcoins were moved out of Lichtenstein’s wallet over the last five years via a convoluted money laundering scheme that culminated in part of the stolen cash being placed into financial accounts controlled by Lichtenstein and Morgan.
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The remainder of the stolen funds, totaling over 94,000 bitcoin, remains in the wallet used to receive and hold the illicit gains from the breach, according to the Department of Justice.
Special agents gained access to files within an online account maintained by Lichtenstein after executing court-authorized search warrants on online accounts controlled by Lichtenstein and Morgan.
These files held the private keys needed to gain access to the digital wallet that received the monies stolen from Bitfinex directly, allowing special agents to properly seize and reclaim more than 94,000 bitcoin stolen from the exchange. According to the Department of Justice, the recovered bitcoin was worth more than $4.5 billion at the time of seizure.