The US Justice Department has announced the arrest of two individuals for an alleged conspiracy to launder cryptocurrency that was stolen during the 2016 hack of Bitfinex, one of the biggest and oldest crypto exchange.
“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 O. Monaco.
$3.6 billion worth of crypto has been seized related to the hack, the Justice Department said.
Ilya Lichtenstein, 34, and his wife, Heather Morgan, 31, both of New York, are scheduled to make their initial appearances in federal court today at 3:00 p.m. in Manhattan.
They are accused of conspiring to launder 119,754 bitcoin stolen from Bitfinex, a sum that recently moved according to blockchain data.
The bitcoin were sent to a digital wallet under Lichtenstein’s control, with the Justice Department further stating:
“After the execution of court-authorized search warrants of online accounts controlled by Lichtenstein and Morgan, special agents obtained access to files within an online account controlled by Lichtenstein.
Those files contained the private keys required to access the digital wallet that directly received the funds stolen from Bitfinex, and allowed special agents to lawfully seize and recover more than 94,000 bitcoin that had been stolen from Bitfinex.
The recovered bitcoin was valued at over $3.6 billion at the time of seizure.”
These bitcoins, currently valued at $3 billion, will now presumably go to Bitfinex unless the government can somehow have a claim to them, in which case they would be auctioned or, in what would be a first, the US government may well decide to diversify and hold them with no detail provided on the matter.