The US Department of Justice seized $3.6 billion in bitcoin stolen from Bitfinex in 2016 and arrested a couple involved in money laundering.
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) seized more than 94,000 bitcoins allegedly stolen in the 2016 Bitfinex hack and arrested a couple suspected of laundering stolen cryptocurrencies, the US Department of Justice said in a press release. A married couple, 34-year-old Ilya Lichtenstein and 31-year-old Heather Morgan, are accused of conspiracy to launder money and deceive the US government. They face up to 25 years in prison if found guilty.
This is the largest confiscation of bitcoins in dollar terms by US law enforcement officers. In total, 119,754 BTC ($4.5 billion at the current exchange rate) were stolen from Bitfinex.
According to the Ministry of Justice, some of the stolen bitcoins went to digital wallets controlled by Ilya Lichtenstein.
More than a third of the stolen bitcoins were transferred from Liechtenstein’s wallet through a complex money laundering process involving accounts created under fictitious names with conversion of BTC into other, more anonymous digital currencies such as Monero. The 94,000 BTC that had not been laundered remained in the wallet used to store the proceeds of the hack. US Justice Department agents say they were able to regain access to it after conducting an extensive online search in Lichtenstein’s cloud documents with court-sanctioned warrants.
According to their LinkedIn profiles, Lichtenstein and Morgan are active members of the IT community and work with tech startups. Liechtenstein, who is a dual U.S.-Russian citizen and nicknamed “The Dutchman”, founded the Y Combinator-backed e-commerce software company MixRank. Morgan is listed as the founder and CEO of B2B sales startup SalesFolk, where Lichtenstein served as an advisor since 2014, according to Crunchbase and LinkedIn. Lichtenstein is also a mentor at venture capital firm 500 Startups and an advisor at Ethereum Endpass, and Morgan writes columns for Forbes and Inc.
Crypto exchange Bitfinex said in a statement that the company will work closely with US authorities to try to return the stolen funds to their rightful owners.