The Department of Justice of the U.S. announced Tuesday the arrest of Ilya Lichtenstein, 34, and Heather Morgan, 31, a married New York City couple trying to launder cryptocurrency stolen during the 2016 hack of the Bitfinex exchange. “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,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco said in a press release. Investigators found a controlled by Lichtenstein wallet containing more than 2,000 bitcoin accounts and followed the trail. Millions of dollars of the transactions were cashed out through bitcoin ATMs and used to purchase gold and non-fungible tokens as well as more mundane items such as Walmart gift cards for personal expenses, prosecutors said. Special agents seized and recovered more than 94,000 bitcoin that had been stolen from Bitfinex, approximately $3.6 billion worth of bitcoin, the largest-ever financial seizure.
Lichtenstein and Morgan could receive a 20-year maximum sentence, respectively a five-year sentence. They face federal charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to defraud the United States. The couple were not charged in the Bitfinex hack itself. “Bitfinex will work with the DOJ and follow appropriate legal processes to establish our rights to a return of the stolen bitcoin,” the cryptocurrency trading platform said in a Tuesday statement.