FBI arrested a couple for hacking into crypto currency exchange Bitfinex in 2016; seized over $3.6 billion worth of bitcoin
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Tuesday morning it seized more than $3.6 billion in allegedly stolen cryptocurrency linked to the 2016 hack of Bitfinex. As part of the operation, DOJ said it has also arrested a New York couple, alleging they conspired to launder stolen bitcoin from the 2016 hack of virtual currency exchange Bitfinex.
The DOJ said they were able to seize more than 94,000 bitcoin, which was valued at around $3.6 billion at the time of seizure. In all, the total stolen bitcoin is presently valued at approximately $4.5 billion, according to the agency.
The August 2016 Bitfinex hack was one of the largest ever recorded in the history of cryptocurrency after the collapse of Mt Gox — so massive that news of the theft knocked 20% off Bitcoin’s value at the time. In a statement, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said the arrest marks the agency’s largest financial seizure ever.
According to the DOJ, Ilya Lichtenstein, 34, and his wife, Heather Morgan, 31 of New York were arrested this morning in Manhattan for an alleged conspiracy to launder cryptocurrency that was stolen during the 2016 hack of Bitfinex, a virtual currency exchange, presently valued at approximately $4.5 billion. Thus far, law enforcement has seized over $3.6 billion in cryptocurrency linked to that hack.
The couple is scheduled to make their initial appearances in federal court later in the day. Lichtenstein’s and Morgan’s legal representation wasn’t immediately clear.
Authorities accuse the pair of trying to launder the proceeds of 119,754 bitcoin that were stolen from Bitfinex’s platform after a hacker breached Bitfinex’s systems and initiated more than 2,000 unauthorized transactions. Prosecutors allege that the transactions sent the stolen bitcoin to Lichtenstein’s digital wallet.
“Today, federal law enforcement demonstrates once again that we can follow money through the blockchain, and that we will not allow cryptocurrency to be a safe haven for money laundering or a zone of lawlessness within our financial system,” Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite Jr. said in a statement.