The United States Department of Justice stated on Tuesday that law enforcement officials had apprehended a married couple who were involved in the 2016 hack of the Bitfinex cryptocurrency exchange, according to the department.
The married couple, Ilya Lichtenstein, 34, and his wife Heather Morgan, 31, were apprehended by US law officials and are suspected of attempting to launder Bitcoin funds worth $3.6 billion through the use of a shell company.
According to authorities, a couple has been arrested for allegedly laundering roughly 119,756 bitcoins.
The crime, according to law enforcement officials in the United States, was one of the greatest financial thefts to have ever taken place. The following theft is also linked to a prior attack of the Bitfinex cryptocurrency exchange, which resulted in the loss of about 119,756 Bitcoin for the exchange.
In 2016, around 119,756 Bitcoin was stolen from Bitfinex, a renowned virtual cryptocurrency exchange with a market capitalization of over $78 million at the time of the theft. Currently, the stolen Bitcoin is valued at over $4.5 billion, making it one of the most significant thefts ever perpetrated in the history of digital currency.
The United States Department of Justice(DOJ) provided additional information, stating that the DOJ was able to recover the stolen funds after IRS-criminal investigation special agents conducted a thorough investigation and issued court-authorized search warrants for online accounts linked to Lichtenstein and Morgan, among others.
The order allowed the authorities to collect files containing the couple’s private keys, which allowed them to gain access to core data and wallets containing monies stolen from Bitfinex.
“Those files contained the private keys required to access the digital wallet that was directly responsible for receiving the funds stolen from Bitfinex, and they enabled special agents to lawfully seize and recover more than 94,000 bitcoins that had been stolen from Bitfinex,” according to the FBI report.
“At the time of seizure, the recovered bitcoin was valued at more than $3.6 billion,” the United States Department of Justice stated further.
As noted in a statement published by Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A Polite Jr, the arrest made today demonstrates that the authorities are on the lookout for cryptocurrency hacks and will not accept cryptocurrencies being used as a means of money laundering or other crimes against humanity.
According to Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, “Today, federal law enforcement demonstrated once again that we can follow the money through the blockchain and that we will not allow cryptocurrency to be used as a haven for money laundering or a zone of lawlessness within our financial system.”
The official records submitted with the court in connection with the event provide a full account of the sophisticated procedures utilized by the pair in an attempt to launder the stolen Bitfinex cash, according to the documents.
The strategies employed include the creation of bogus accounts and the use of computer tools to automate the transfer of monies. Later on, the monies were transferred to the Lichtenstein wallet through a complicated series of transactions that were intended to disguise and make the Bitfinex funds difficult to trace.
The accused Lichtenstein is described as a tech entrepreneur who holds dual citizenship in the United States and Russia, according to the official complaint.
Heather Morgan’s LinkedIn profile describes herself as a serial entrepreneur, who is consistent with his own. In addition to conspiracy to commit money laundering, the pair have been charged with money laundering, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in jail.
Following the announcement that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had recovered cash from Bitfinex, the exchange moved to Twitter to offer a general statement, expressing their willingness to support and cooperate with the Department of Justice in any future investigations.