Vast amounts of bitcoin were stolen from the cryptocurrency exchange Bitfinex six years ago, and now the Justice Department announced Tuesday that over $3.6 billion worth of bitcoin linking to this 2016 hack has finally been seized by officials.
Couple Arrested For Laundering BTC Proceeds From 2016 Hack
Authorities have detained two individuals, a New York couple, on allegations of colluding to launder the digital assets from the Bitfinex hack. The man, Ilya Lichtenstein (34), along with his wife, Heather Morgan (31), is scheduled to appear in federal court at 3:00 p.m. ET in Manhattan, New York.
BREAKING: DOJ says Ilya Lichtenstein, 34, and his wife, Heather Morgan, 31, both of New York, were arrested today and charged with money laundering cryptocurrency stolen from Bitfinex in 2016. DOJ says it has recovered a whopping $3.6 billion worth of crypto.— Eamon Javers (@EamonJavers) February 8, 2022
“Today’s arrests, and the department’s largest financial seizure ever, show that cryptocurrency is not a safe haven for criminals,” commented Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco. “In a futile effort to maintain digital anonymity, the defendants laundered stolen funds through a labyrinth of cryptocurrency transactions. Thanks to the meticulous work of law enforcement, the department once again showed how it can and will follow the money, no matter what form it takes.”
Money Stolen Via The 2016 Bitfinex Hack
Stealing nearly one-sixth of the total trading volume at the time, the Bitfinex hack swiped some 120,000 BTC, which was worth about $60 million in 2016, Coindesk reports. Out of this, Lichtenstein and Morgan are accused of laundering the proceeds of 119,754 BTC, stolen from Bitfinex’s platform after a hacker breached Bitfinex’s systems and initiated more than 2,000 unauthorized transactions back then.
According to the DOJ, while the present value of total bitcoin stolen is around $4.5 billion, US officials said they were able to seize more than 94,000 bitcoin, valued at about $3.6 billion at the time of seizure.
“Criminals always leave tracks, and today’s case is a reminder that the FBI has the tools to follow the digital trail, wherever it may lead,” said FBI Deputy Director Paul M. Abbate. With the sentence yet to be determined, Lichtenstein and Morgan are charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, and conspiracy to defraud the United States, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.