The US Department of Justice has arrested two people and confiscated more than $3.6bn in cryptocurrency it said was stolen during the 2016 hack of the Bitfinex exchange, in its largest financial seizure ever.
New York-based llya Lichtenstein, 34, and his wife, Heather Morgan, 31, were arrested on Tuesday and accused of conspiring to launder proceeds of 119,754 bitcoin valued at $4.5bn, US prosecutors said in a statement. The cryptocurrency was allegedly stolen when the Hong Kong-based Bitfinex exchange was breached, the prosecutors said.
The justice department’s move comes as US authorities have vowed to crack down on the criminal use of digital tokens and marks one of the most significant actions since the DoJ poured more resources into cryptocurrency enforcement.
“Today’s arrests, and the department’s largest financial seizure ever, show that cryptocurrency is not a safe haven for criminals,” said Lisa Monaco, deputy attorney-general.
Lichtenstein and Morgan have been charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum punishment of 20 years in prison, and conspiracy to defraud the US, which has a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
Lichtenstein and Morgan could not immediately be reached for comment.