Mercy Mutanya is a Tech enthusiast, Digital Marketer, Writer and IT Business Management Student. She enjoys reading, writing, doing crosswords and binge-watching her favourite TV series.
Teams from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Cyber Crimes Unit of the internal Revenue Services’ Criminal Investigation Agency managed to trace the hack to the pair but would not go into the specifics.
The United States Department of Justice (DoJ) announced on Tuesday that they had recovered over $3.6 billion worth of suspected stolen crypto. The crypto is alleged to have been stolen during the August 2016 Bitfinex Bitcoin hack. It is the department’s largest financial seizure to date according to Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco “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
The DoJ called for the arrest of New York couple Ilya Lichtenstein (34) and wife Heather Morgan (31) for alleged conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to defraud the United States. At the time of the hack, the 119,756 Bitcoin stolen was worth $72 million. Today, the loot is valued at over $5 billion. It remained mostly untouched, but several small transactions have been conducted over the years, seemingly to avoid drawing attention. It was these smaller transactions, amounting to 25,000 BTC that the DoJ tracked. The transactions led agents to financial accounts belonging to Lichtenstein and Morgan.
Special agents were then able to gain access to and seize more than 94,000 BTC – worth $3.6 billion at the time – from Morgan and Lichtenstein after a search warrant allowed them to view files containing private keys to a wallet that contained more than 94,000 BTC, equivalent to $3.6 billion according to BTC/USD rates at that particular time. The DoJ seized the contents of the wallet.
It has been revealed that Lichtenstein and Morgan employed a variety of methods to launder the stolen Bitcoin. Some of their methods included chain hopping, making deposits and withdraws at exchanges and dark web marketplaces and making automated transactions through computer programs.
Teams from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Cyber Crimes Unit of the internal Revenue Services’ Criminal Investigation Agency managed to trace the hack to the pair but would not go into the specifics. FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate commented that the Bureau has the tools necessary to “follow the digital trail”.
“Today’s arrests, and the department’s largest financial seizure ever, show that cryptocurrency is not a safe haven for criminals. In a futile effort to maintain digital anonymity, the defendants laundered stolen funds through a labyrinth of cryptocurrency transactions. Thanks to the meticulous work of law enforcement, the department once again showed how it can and will follow the money, no matter what form it takes,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, commenting on the arrests.