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Bitfinix was hacked in 2016

US accuses crypto-couple of laundering $4.5 bn bitcoin linked to 2016 Bitfinix hack

A husband and wife duo were arrested in Manhattan on Tuesday and charged with attempting to launder $4.5 billion in stolen cryptocurrency.

Federal prosecutors in the US charged Ilya “Dutch” Lichtenstein, 34, and his wife, Heather Morgan, 31, for an alleged conspiracy to launder $4.5 billion bitcoin taken during the 2016 hack of the Bitfinix online exchange.

The 2016 hack resulted in the theft of almost 120,000 bitcoin, equivalent to over $4.5 billion at today’s prices.

The US Justice Department (DOJ) has so far seized more than 94,000 BTC linked to the 2016 hack, valued at $3.6 billion.

IRS Criminal Investigation Chief Jim Lee described the defendants utilising a “methodical and calculated scheme to launder and disguise their vast fortune”.

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said in a statement: “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.”

Monaco also praised “several cryptocurrency exchanges for enforcing anti-money laundering policies and know your customer requirements that proved key to the investigation”. 

The statement from the DOJ does not claim the married couple were the original hackers of the Bitfinix exchange, but that the hacker used unauthorized transactions to “send the stolen bitcoin to a digital wallet under Lichtenstein’s control”.

The recovery of $3.6 billion in bitcoin from the 2016 hack is the largest seizure of stolen cryptocurrency ever by US law enforcement and according to Monaco it is “the US Justice department’s largest single financial seizure in its history”.

Lichtenstein is a tech entrepreneur and his wife Heather Morgan is a journalist and amateur rapper. 

Both have been charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

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