The US arrested a couple in New York City on Tuesday for laundering cryptocurrency worth approximately $4.5 billion that was allegedly stolen from an exchange in 2016.
The Justice Department said in a statement that law enforcement seized more than $3.6 billion in cryptocurrency linked to that hack from the Bitfinex exchange.
“Today’s arrests, and the department’s largest financial seizure ever, show that cryptocurrency is not a safe haven for criminals,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco in the same statement.
Monaco said the couple 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,” she said.
Ilya Lichtenstein, 34, and his wife, Heather Morgan, 31, allegedly conspired to launder the proceeds of 119,754 bitcoin that were stolen from Bitfinex’s platform after a hacker breached Bitfinex’s systems and initiated more than 2,000 unauthorized transactions.
“Over the last five years, approximately 25,000 of those stolen bitcoin were transferred out of Lichtenstein’s wallet via a complicated money laundering process that ended with some of the stolen funds being deposited into financial accounts controlled by Lichtenstein and Morgan,” according to the statement.
The couple is scheduled to make their initial appearances in federal court at 3 p.m. ET Tuesday in Manhattan.
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