The American authorities detained a married couple in New York suspected of being involved in the theft of almost $ 3.6 billion in cryptocurrency. They face up to 25 years in prison.
How informs The US Department of Justice, the detainees are 34-year-old Ilya Lichtenstein, a native of Russia, and 31-year-old American Heather Morgan. They were discovered when the attackers transferred 25 thousand BTC to one of their accounts.
In addition, they found a file with an access key to the wallet, which stored 94 thousand BTC. The withdrawal of this cryptocurrency has already been called the largest in the history of the US Department of Justice.
“In a futile attempt to preserve digital anonymity, the defendants laundered stolen funds through a labyrinth of cryptocurrency transactions. Thanks to the painstaking work of law enforcement agencies, the department has once again shown how it can and will monitor money, in whatever form it may be,” Coindesk quotes the Deputy Attorney General USA Lisa Monaco.
According to the US Department of Justice, over the past five years, the pair has withdrawn approximately 25 thousand BTC. “Through a complex process of money laundering,” the cryptocurrency settled on addresses that were controlled by Liechtenstein and Morgan.
It is assumed that they managed about 2 thousand different crypto wallets. The seed phrases for them were recorded in a spreadsheet stored in the cloud storage.
Each of the detainees faces up to 25 years in prison. Despite the resonance of what happened, the judge released them under house arrest with bail of $3 million and $5 million for Morgan and Liechtenstein, respectively.
The Bitfinex crypto exchange was hacked in August 2016, when almost 120 thousand bitcoins disappeared from its accounts – at that time the total value of the stolen was estimated at $72 million, but since then this figure has exceeded $5.3 billion. As a result, the site was forced to suspend work , but over time it started up again.
In February 2019, the US authorities were able to return more than 27 thousand BTC to the exchange. They were converted into dollars and paid out to holders of RRT (Recovery Right Token) tokens.