Bitfinex Hack: Meet the Self-Proclaimed 'Serial Entrepreneur' Couple Charged Over Laundering Bitcoin
At first, a self-proclaimed "serial entrepreneur" couple has been granted bail by a US judge for an alleged conspiracy to launder USD 4.5bn worth of bitcoin (BTC) stolen from the 2016 hack of the major crypto exchange Bitfinex.
The New York judge set bail for Morgan at USD 3m and for Lichtenstein at USD 5m. However, later, a Washington judge halted this decision to grant bail.
The couple in question are Heather Morgan, 31, a published Forbes and Inc contributor who also calls herself the “Crocodile of Wall Street”, and her husband Ilya Lichtenstein, 34, a "Web3 developer."
Morgan appears to be a marketing entrepreneur with several bylines in prominent media outlets. According to her LinkedIn profile, Morgan has a Master of Arts degree in international economic development from the American University in Cairo, Egypt, and a Bachelor of Arts in international relations from the University of California, Davis, USA.
“I’m going to tell you my secret for making dreams a reality,” Morgan said in a TikTok video. “I started my company when I was 23 and grew it into a multimillion-dollar business with zero outside funding. I had no connections. I didn’t go to an Ivy League school and I wasn’t trust-funded. How did I do it? I learned a simple framework in Silicon Valley from some top entrepreneurs that are now billionaires that I live by. It goes like this: automate, eliminate, delegate.”
In an article, titled “Experts Share Tips To Protect Your Business From Cybercriminals,” she said that "cybercriminals and fraudsters are taking advantage of" the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led "to a spike in scams and cybercrime." She also provided some tips for businesses on how to stay safe online.
On her website, Razzlekhan -- “like Genghis Khan, but with more pizzazz” -- Morgan calls herself an artist, claiming that her art "often resembles something in between an acid trip and a delightful nightmare," and that it's "definitely not for the faint of heart or easily offended."
She also appears to be a fan of rap and is some kind of a rapper — though not everyone is a fan of her art or rap.
On the other hand, Morgan's partner Lichtenstein is a tech entrepreneur and founder of blockchain start-up Endpass, a cross-platform offline password management app that seeks to "securely store passwords" to "stop fraud and terrorism." This product was designed to solve "problems in decentralized identity and authentication."
He doesn't appear to have much of a social media presence but has been active in warning others about hacks and scams.
The couple was arrested by federal law enforcement officials in New York City on Tuesday after officials gained access to files within an online account controlled by Lichtenstein that contained the private keys to BTC 94,000 (USD 4.1bn) that had been stolen from Bitfinex.
As per an announcement from the Department of Justice (DOJ), Bitfinex’s hacker sent BTC 119,754 to a digital wallet under Lichtenstein’s control after they managed to breach the exchange's systems back in 2016.
"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," the DOJ said.
The judge has set bail for the couple, but they are still facing a maximum of 25 years in prison, according to the DOJ.
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(Updated at 14:20 UTC to add that a Washington judge halted the decision to grant bail.)