In Connection With an Alleged Plot to Launder Billions of Dollars in Stolen Bitcoin, a New York Couple Has Been Arrested and Charged
The FBI arrested a New York couple this morning for allegedly conspiring to launder the majority of the cryptocurrency stolen during the 2016 hack of a virtual currency exchange, which is now valued at a whopping $4.5 billion. The couple was taken into custody without incident.
In a statement, Justice Department officials said that they had seized at least $3.6 billion in cryptocurrency linked to the hack, which they will now attempt to return to its rightful owners. They described the amount of stolen currency – digital or otherwise – as “record-breaking.”
The investigation into the cryptocurrency hack is still ongoing, according to authorities, who have not publicly linked Ilya “Dutch” Lichtenstein, 34, and his wife, Heather Rhiannon Morgan, 31, to the actual hack of the cryptocurrency.
According to the indictment, they are accused of laundering the $3.6 billion through a series of complicated financial transactions and diverting unspecified amounts to accounts under their control.
The two were expected to appear in federal court in Manhattan later Tuesday, but they did not enter a plea.
“Today’s arrests, as well as the Department’s largest financial seizure ever,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, “demonstrate that cryptocurrency is not a safe haven for criminals.”
Local government cyberattacks: Local governments are more vulnerable to cyberattacks than they have ever been. The Department of Homeland Security encourages mayors to take action.
“The defendants laundered stolen cash through a maze of cryptocurrency transactions in a failed effort to maintain digital anonymity,” Monaco said in a statement. “Thanks to law enforcement’s painstaking work, the department has once again demonstrated that it can and will pursue the money, no matter what form it takes.”
The arrests, according to Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, should send a message to cybercriminals that federal officials are now smart enough to track money through the blockchain, which often hides digital money transfers.
“We will not allow cryptocurrencies to be a safe haven for money laundering or a zone of lawlessness within our financial system,” Polite stated.
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