The U.S. Department of Justice has seized more than $ 3.6 billion in bitcoin. The cryptocurrencies were allegedly stolen in a hack by Bitfinex, a crypto exchange. It’s the biggest seizure ever. A couple in New York who are suspected of trying to launder money have been arrested.
Ilya ‘Dutch’ Lichtenstein (34) and his wife Heather Morgan (31) are accused by the authorities of money laundering and fraud. The New York couple allegedly tried to launder 119,754 bitcoin, which was stolen after a hacker broke into the crypto exchange Bitfinex and executed more than 2,000 unauthorized transactions.
According to prosecutors, bitcoins were sent to a digital wallet controlled by Lichtenstein. Subsequently, about 35,000 stolen cryptocurrencies were transferred to Lichtenstein and Morgan accounts through a series of money laundering transactions.
The fortune captured was worth $ 71 million at the time. Meanwhile, its value has grown exponentially to $ 4.5 billion. Authorities say they were able to recover about 94,000 of the stolen 119,754 bitcoin. The value of the seized funds is currently about $ 3.6 billion.
It is the largest seizure of funds in the history of the U.S. Department of Justice. Recently, the department announced that it would focus more on prosecuting cryptocurrency crimes.
Cryptocurrency is not a safe haven for criminals
According to Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, Lichtenstein and Morgan tried to launder the stolen bitcoin “through a maze of cryptocurrency transactions.” “Cryptocurrency is not a safe haven for criminals,” she warns. “Thanks to the diligent work of the police forces, the department has once again demonstrated how money can and will follow, no matter what form they take.”
Criminals always leave traces, and this case proves that the FBI has the resources to follow the digital trail wherever it may lead.
Authorities used search warrants for online accounts belonging to Lichtenstein and Morgan to obtain the keys, which would allow agents to seize the stolen bitcoins. The study revealed that the money was moved through a dark web platform linked to a wide range of crimes, as well as cryptocurrency addresses associated with child abuse related content.
The duo also tried to launder money through a currency exchange network or claimed it was payments to Morgan’s start-up company, the ministry said. “Criminals always leave traces, and this case proves that the FBI has the resources to follow the digital trail wherever it may lead,” said FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate.
According to authorities, the couple used the money for a wide variety of purchases, ranging from gold to NFTs (non-fungible tokens, ed.) Or gift cards to Walmart. Bitfinex had previously offered a reward of hundreds of millions of dollars for information that led to the discovery of the stolen funds. It is not immediately clear whether that reward eventually led investigators to Lichtenstein and Morgan.
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