A recent update in the federal court docket suggests that Ilya Lichtenstein and Heather Rhiannon Morgan, a New York couple, may plead guilty in the case against them for allegedly attempting to launder $4.5 billion in Bitcoin stolen during the 2016 Bitfinex hack.
Their names appeared in a document typically used by federal prosecutors when defendants reach a plea agreement, indicating that the charges against them may soon be resolved.
Bitfinex hack update: stolen Bitcoin now worth over $4.5 billion
Court records reveal that Ilya Lichtenstein and aspiring rapper Heather Rhiannon Morgan are scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 3 for separate arraignments and plea hearings on the provided information.
At this time, public records do not provide any specific information regarding the charges. However, as the legal proceedings continue, more clarity may be revealed about the nature of the charges related to the alleged attempt to launder funds during the 2016 attack.
According to the charging documents, Bitcoin was valued at $71 million during the attack. However, it has appreciated since then and is now estimated to be worth around $4.5 billion. Prosecutors are seeking to seize assets worth approximately $3 billion, considering the current spot prices of different cryptocurrencies.
The request extends beyond cash and tokens held in crypto wallets and bank accounts; authorities also seek gold coins “excavated and recovered by law enforcement” from a specific, undisclosed location in California.
Since this hack was first reported in 2016, recovering the funds has since been a six-year process to track and begin returning.
Reports in 2022 highlighted that a significant portion of the stolen funds remained inactive in the wallet. However, as the currency gradually started to exit the wallet and transition into the conventional banking system, investigators obtained a valuable lead, enabling them to follow the trail of transactions back to real-world individuals.
More recently, on July 6, Bitfinex, the crypto exchange involved in the hack, revealed that it successfully recovered $312,219 in cash and 6.9 Bitcoin Cash, now valued at $1,951, stolen initially during a 2016 hack.
The recovery of these assets was made possible through cooperation with the United States Department of Homeland Security, as stated on the company’s website.