DoJ Seizes $3.6B In Bitcoin From Massive 2016 Bitfinex Crypto Exchange Heist

crypto crime
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it has seized an estimated $3.6 billion in stolen cryptocurrency. The seizure came along with the arrest of a married couple accused of laundering 119,754 bit coin in an elaborate scheme.

Headlines denoting hackers stealing cryptocurrency is not an uncommon occurrence these days. Recently a hacker pulled off a massive crypto heist of Wormhole, one of the biggest bridges between Solana and other blockchains, that netted an estimated $324 million worth of crypto. Last month, was hacked for an estimated $15 million worth of Ethereum. The use of cryptocurrency by criminals to evade detection has been a cause of concern for law enforcement for some time. But the DOJ is determined to bring those criminals to justice, and have announced an arrest of a married couple accused of attempting to launder funds from a crypto hack in 2016.

In a post from the DOJ, it said a married couple was arrested in Manhattan for an alleged conspiracy to launder cryptocurrency that was stolen during the 2016 hack of Bitfinex. The hack was estimated to be valued at $4.5 billion, and states it has been able to seize over $3.6 billion linked to the Bitfinex hack.

"Today's arrests, and the department's largest financial seizure ever, show that cryptocurrency is not a safe haven for criminals," stated Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco. "In a futile effort to maintain digital anonymity, the defendants 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."

The criminal complaint details how, Ilya Lichtenstein and his wife Heather Morgan, allegedly attempted to launder the stolen funds. The DOJ says the couple used fictitious identities to set up online accounts, utilized computer programs to automate transactions, deposited stolen funds into various virtual currency exchanges and darknet markets, and converted Bitcoin to other forms of virtual currency, along with other techniques. This was all to try and hide the laundering of 119,754 bitcoin stolen from Bitfinex.

bitfinex tweet
Bitfinex posted to its Twitter account that it has been cooperating with the DOJ since the investigation into the hack began. It said it appreciated the dedication and hard work by the DOJ team that led to the arrest and seizure of funds.

FBI Deputy Director Paul M. Abbate says that criminals always leave tracks and that yesterday's arrest is a reminder to that fact. He insists that the FBI and law enforcement have the tools necessary to follow the digital trail, wherever it may take them. By using these tools, Abbate says, "we're able to uncover the source of even the most sophisticated schemes and bring justice to those who try to exploit the security of our financial infrastructure."

"Financial crime strikes at the core of our national and economic security. With a hack of this magnitude, public and private sector collaboration is crucial to ensure continued consumer confidence in our financial system," said Acting Executive Associate Director Steve Francis of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). "Ilya Lichtenstein and his wife Heather Morgan attempted to subvert legitimate commerce for their own nefarious purposes, operating with perceived anonymity. Today's action demonstrates HSI's commitment and ability to work with a collation of the willing to unravel these technical fraud schemes and identify the perpetrators, regardless of where they operate."

The DOJ is determined to bring crypto criminals to justice. But it is certain that crypto criminals are also determined to continue using the virtual currency in an attempt to evade capture and make a massive profit off its crimes.