Hacker Behind 2016 Bitfinex Attack Pleads Guilty at Court

Hacker Behind 2016 Bitfinex Attack Pleads Guilty at Court

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Ilya Lichtenstein admitted to laundering the $4.5B worth of Bitcoin stolen during the 2016 Bitfinex attack; his wife Heather Morgan also pleaded guilty.

Seven-year-long Investigation Comes to an End

According to the CNBC report, resident of New York City Ilya Lichtenstein admitted to being the original hacker behind the 2016 Bitfinex attack in a federal court in Washington, D.C on July 3. On the same day, his wife Heather Morgan also pleaded guilty to the counts of money laundering and conspiracy related to the hack.

The cyberattack deprived Bitfinext of almost 120 BTC, which was worth $70 million at the time and has since risen to the price of $4.5 billion. It took the US Department of Justice (DOJ) seven years to seize the stolen funds and the person responsible for the hack. 

“Bitfinex diligently worked with the U.S. Department of Justice to identify the perpetrators of the hack, recover the stolen bitcoin, and bring the hackers to justice," said an external spokesperson for Bitfinex. "After seven years, those efforts have come to fruition.”

The Bizarre Couple Caught for Money Laundering

Ilya Lichtenstein and his wife Heather Morgan, also known as “Razzlekhan” (the name she uses to publish her comedy rap videos) were arrested on charges of money laundering and theft in connection to the 2016 Bitfinex hack in February 2022. However, the Department of Justice didn’t accuse the couple of being the original hackers behind the attack at that time. 

Morgan proclaimed to be a cybercrime expert specializing in social engineering on her LinkedIn, while Lichtenstein had technical background in coding and data analysis. These facts suggested that the couple had enough expertise to pull off the hack, even though many didn’t believe it due to the image of eccentric personas the two projected on the Internet.

Most of the Bitfinex Funds Recovered

At the time of Lichtenstein's and Morgan’s arrest, the DOJ was able to recover 94,000 BTC linked to the hack, the sum now equivalent to around $3.6 billion. It was discovered that in early 2017, Lichtenstein “began to move a portion of the Bitcoin” stolen during the Bitfinex attack “in a series of small, complex transactions across multiple accounts and platforms.” The shuffling process, which involved a large number of transactions, was aimed at obscuring the path of the stolen money.

Last month, the crypto exchange recovered another part of its lost funds: $312,219 in cash and 6.9 in Bitcoin Cash (BCH) worth around $1951 today. Apparently, the United States Department of Homeland Security got control of the sum in 2022 after the culprit’s arrest. 

The couple is now facing up to 25 years in prison. Following their arrest in 2022, Netflix announced it might create a series about the case.

Disclaimer: This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.

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