Two people have been arrested by the US Justice Department for allegedly conspiring to launder money stolen from the 2016 hack of Bitfinex, one of the largest and oldest cryptocurrency exchanges.
Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco said,
"The defendants laundered stolen monies through a maze of bitcoin transactions in a fruitless attempt to maintain digital anonymity. Thanks to law enforcement's careful work, the department has once again demonstrated that it can and will follow the money, regardless of its form."
According to the Justice Department, $3.6 billion in cryptocurrency has been seized as a result of the hack.
Ilya Lichtenstein, 34, and his wife, Heather Morgan, 31, both of New York, are expected to appear in federal court in Manhattan today at 3:00 p.m.
They're accused of plotting to launder 119,754 bitcoin stolen from Bitfinex, a sum that, according to blockchain data, has lately moved.
The bitcoins were sent to a digital wallet controlled by Lichtenstein, as per the Justice Department.
In addition, the reports say that special agents obtained access to files within an online account maintained by Lichtenstein after executing court-authorized search warrants of online accounts controlled by Lichtenstein and Morgan.
Moreover, these files held the private keys needed to gain access to the digital wallet that received the cryptos stolen from Bitfinex directly, allowing special agents to properly seize and reclaim more than 94,000 bitcoin stolen from the exchange.
At the time of seizure, the recovered bitcoin was worth over $3.6 billion.
These bitcoins, which are presently valued at $3 billion, will undoubtedly be sent to Bitfinex until the government can establish a claim to them, in which case they will be auctioned or, in a first, the US government may opt to diversify and retain them with no further information offered.