Unfortunately, yammering on about cryptocurrency is still legal. What isn’t, however, is attempting to launder $3.6 billion of it, and couple Heather Morgan, 31, and Ilya Lichtenstein, 34, are now facing charges as part of the Justice Department’s “largest financial seizure ever.”
Per a press statement, Morgan and Lichtenstein are being charged with “conspiracy to commit money laundering”, as well as “conspiracy to defraud the United States.” The allegations against Morgan and Lichtenstein are connected to a 2016 hack of the exchange platform Bitfinex, though they are not being accused of actually performing the hack themselves. At the time, the 120,000 stolen Bitcoins were worth roughly $72 million, but the value has ballooned in the ensuing years.
The cryptocurrency was sent to Lichtenstein’s digital wallet, with some of it already having been laundered but the majority remaining in his control. According to the Justice Department, the couple employed various methods, including “using fictitious identities to set up online accounts,” in their attempts to hide the money and keep it from being traced back to them.
Crypto hacks have become a pervasive problem in recent years. In August 2021, over $600 million was stolen from the Poly Network platform, though in an unexpected twist a large portion of it was returned. More recently, $120 million worth of tokens were taken from finance platform BadgerDAO in December. In 2021 scammers reportedly pocketed roughly $14 billion in cryptocurrency, a 79 percent increase from 2020 and an all-time high, though the rate is still relatively low compared to the total number of crypto-related transactions taking place.
As news of the arrest has spread online, stories about Morgan and Lichtenstein have begun to appear on social media–including the former’s…very active TikTok account. Morgan also gave a public talk to titled “How to Social Engineer Your Way Into Anything,” where they taught “actionable tactics for event crashing, how to cold email even the most reclusive and high-level people and get a response, and what to do to get yourself out of…