The New York couple, charged with attempting to launder $4.5B in stolen BTC in the 2016 Bitfinex hack, have agreed to enter a plea deal with agencies.
Heather Morgan, also known as “Razzlekhan” in the hip-hop world, and her husband Ilya Lichtenstein, got arrested earlier in February 2022. The couple is accused of working together to commit money-related crimes and deceive the US. However, they may have handover virtual assets associated with their illegal activities.
Moreover, the couple has been ordered to attend plea hearings on August 3rd. Senior Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly will oversee this hearing in WA, as per court documents.
Laundered Bitcoins Are Worth More Than $4.5B
About 119,754 Bitcoins were stolen in the 2016 hack of a crypto firm. After that, Morgan and Lichtenstein allegedly tried to launder over 94,643 of those stolen BTC. The hackers made over 2,000 unauthorized transactions after accessing the platform’s systems. However, they sent the stolen Bitcoin to a digital wallet controlled by Lichtenstein.
About 25,000 of the stolen BTC were withdrawn from Liechtenstein’s wallet over five years using a complicated money laundering method. Eventually, a portion of these ill-gotten gains were deposited into financial accounts controlled by the couple.
Meanwhile, the criminals kept more than 94,000 BTC in the same wallet, which they used to collect and store. They didn’t move or spend this remaining amount.
The authorities got search warrants to access the online accounts of Lichtenstein and Morgan. As a result, special agents successfully opened files stored in an online account controlled by Lichtenstein.
The files contained the secret keys needed to access the wallet that received the stolen funds directly from Bitfinex. However, agencies lawfully took control and recovered over 94,000 BTC.
When the hack happened, the value of the coins was around $71 million. But when the authorities caught them earlier this year, the value was over $4.5 billion. Prosecutors are currently trying to make the couple give up assets worth about $3 billion. These assets include tokens from cryptocurrency wallets and cash from bank accounts.
According to the criminal complaint, Morgan and Lichtenstein used several advanced laundering techniques. These included using computer programs to automate transactions, creating online accounts using fake identities, and depositing the stolen funds into darknet market accounts and crypto exchanges.