On Tuesday, February 8, the FBI arrested Ilya Lichtenstein, 34, and his wife, Heather Morgan, 31, in Manhattan over charges related to laundering cryptocurrency stolen from Bitfinex in 2016, the US Department of Justice has reported. The law enforcement has reportedly already seized over $3.6 billion in cryptocurrency.
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Lichtenstein and Morgan allegedly conspired to launder the proceeds of 119,754 bitcoin that were stolen from Bitfinex after a hacker breached the exchange's systems and initiated more than 2,000 unauthorized transactions. Those unauthorized transactions sent the stolen cryptocurrency to a digital wallet under Lichtenstein’s control.
"Cryptocurrency and the virtual currency exchanges trading in it comprise an expanding part of the US financial system, but digital currency heists executed through complex money laundering schemes could undermine confidence in cryptocurrency," said US Attorney Matthew Graves for the District of Columbia.
The law enforcement believes that Lichtenstein and Morgan employed numerous "sophisticated laundering techniques," including using fictitious identities to set up online accounts, utilizing computer programs to automate transactions, depositing the stolen crypto into accounts at a variety of cryptocurrency exchanges and darknet markets and then withdrawing the funds, which obfuscates the trail of the transaction history by breaking up the fund flow.
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