Alleged Bitfinex Money Laundering Hearing Postponed

Updated by Kyle Baird
In Brief
  • A hearing for the New York couple implicated in the 2016 Bitfinex hack has been postponed, pending a potential plea deal.
  • Ilya Lichtenstein, 34, and his wife, Heather Morgan, 32, were expected to appear in a federal court in Washington on Friday.
  • Federal prosecutors asked to postpone the hearing until Aug. 2, according to a court filing earlier this week.
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A hearing for the New York couple implicated in the 2016 Bitfinex hack has been postponed, pending a potential plea deal.

Ilya Lichtenstein, 34, and his wife, Heather Morgan, 32, were expected to appear in a federal court in Washington on May 27. However, federal prosecutors asked to postpone the hearing until Aug. 2, according to a court filing earlier this week. 

The filing referred to “discussions regarding possible resolutions of the case short of trial” as well as the need for the defendants to review “voluminous financial records” amounting to 1.1 gigabytes of evidence which the government turned over. 

Following their arrest, prosecutors had initially agreed to pause the Speedy Trial Act in order to discuss a possible plea deal, and a grand jury has yet to return an indictment against the couple. 

Alleged Bitfinex launderers

Lichtenstein and Morgan were arrested in February and then accused in a criminal complaint of conspiring to launder 119,754 Bitcoin. The cryptocurrency had been stolen in 2016 when a hacker infiltrated the Bitfinex cryptocurrency and initiated over 2,000 unauthorized transactions. 

According to U.S. Justice Department officials, at the time of the hack, the cryptocurrency had been worth $71 million. However, given Bitcoin’s appreciation since then, the stolen cryptocurrency was valued at $4.5 billion at the time of the couple’s arrest.

Public profiles

While Chief Judge Beryl Howell had granted the couple bond, their parents’ homes were posted as security. “Their financial resources could be easily used to facilitate flight… and could all be used to evade” liability, the judge said. Liechtenstein was deemed a flight risk because he is supposedly proficient at using fake identities 

The couple posed as seasoned crypto entrepreneurs and had active public profiles before their arrest. For instance, Morgan released rap videos under the moniker Razzlekhan,” including one following their arrest, and also referred to herself as “The Crocodile of Wall Street.” According to the judge, Morgan and Lichtenstein could face a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. 

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