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US Couple Admits to Laundering $4.5 Billion in Stolen Bitcoin

A husband and wife have pleaded guilty to money laundering connected to the 2016 hack of cryptocurrency exchange Bitfinex.

 Bitfinex cryptocurrency
Credits: Reuters

The stolen funds were worth $71 million at the time but appreciated to over $4.5 billion when the couple were arrested earlier this year.

Moscow-born Ilya Lichtenstein, 35, admitted to perpetrating the hack of Bitfinex and enlisting his wife Heather Morgan, 33, to help conceal the illicit proceeds. In total, the hack netted 119,754 bitcoin. The U.S. Department of Justice calls the recovery of the stolen funds, worth $3.6 billion, the biggest financial seizure in its history. The DOJ has since recouped an additional $475 million.

Buried Coins and Burning Documents Part of Elaborate Scheme

To hide the stolen crypto, Lichtenstein and Morgan engaged in an elaborate scheme involving burying gold coins and destroying documents. The coins were buried by Morgan in California and later dug up by authorities.

Lichtenstein also took trips to Ukraine and Kazakhstan, allegedly to meet with "money mules" who moved the funds through banks there. The couple would then withdraw the cash in the U.S.

Morgan said she grew suspicious of her husband's wealth before he confessed to the hack in 2020. Her wariness increased after seeing Lichtenstein burn papers during a Kazakhstan trip.

"When I asked him about it, he was evasive," Morgan told the judge.

No Sentencing Date Yet, But Couple Agree to Cooperate

Sentencing dates have not been scheduled yet. As part of a plea deal made in July, Lichtenstein and Morgan have agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

The two pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in Washington D.C. Lichtenstein has a degree in psychology but described himself as a tech entrepreneur. Morgan is an aspiring rapper who goes by the stage name "Razzlekhan."

  • Couple pleads guilty to laundering $4.5 billion in bitcoin stolen from Bitfinex exchange

  • Elaborate scheme involved burying coins, burning documents and using mules to move funds

  • DOJ calls recovery of $3.6 billion in crypto the biggest financial seizure in its history

  • Additional $475 million recovered; couple agrees to forfeit $72 million and cooperate

Source: Reuters

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