DOJ seizes $3.6B in bitcoins after busting entrepreneur couple in Bitfinex laundering scheme

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The U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) has seized over 94,000 bitcoins that were allegedly stolen in the 2016 hack of crypto exchange Bitfinex and arrested a married couple suspected to have laundered the money, the department announced today. The couple — Ilya Lichtenstein, 34, and Heather Morgan, 31 — faces charges of conspiring to launder money and to defraud the U.S. government. Facing up to 25 years in prison if convicted, they are set to make their initial appearance in federal court in Manhattan later today.

The asset seizure, worth $3.6 billion at today’s bitcoin prices, is the largest in the Justice Department’s history, officials said. They did not recover the entire sum of funds lost in the 2016 hack, though — the 119,754 bitcoins allegedly stolen in total are now worth $4.5 billion.

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While Morgan and Lichtenstein were not formally accused of perpetrating the hack, prosecutors said they discovered the suspects because the bitcoins were sent to a digital wallet Lichtenstein controlled. The couple obtained the coins after a hacker breached Bitfinex’s systems, initiating more than 2,000 illegal transactions, the DOJ said.

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