Cryptocurrencies have attracted millions of people eager to earn money effortlessly. And also, cybercriminals willing to steal those cryptocurrencies.
But stealing bitcoins is not the same as stealing dollars or euros. Because one day you steal an amount, and the next year it becomes a millionaire. It goes from being a petty theft to a multi-million dollar robbery…
Something similar has happened to the couple formed by Ilya Lichtenstein and Heather Morgan, a rapper who calls herself Razzlekhan, the Wall Street Crocodile, as she boasts on her website. She also has a channel on YouTube and other music platforms, but her videos have been deleted.
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According to Business Insider, in 2016 this couple allegedly hired a hacker, or carried out the operation themselves: they hacked the Bitfinex currency exchange platform to carry out 2,000 fraudulent operations , stealing 120,000 bitcoins.
At that time they were worth 71 million dollars. But five years later they are worth… 4.3 billion euros.
Cryptocurrencies are like cash, they have no owner and the owner is the one who has them in his wallet. So they are hard to track. But at the same time, all trading operations, when they change hands, are public operations. So it is not easy to launder stolen cryptocurrencies.
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According to the police, in these 5 years the couple has changed their identity several times and has managed to launder some 25,000 bitcoins, selling them or exchanging them for other cryptocurrencies.
The agents they have recovered the rest, about 95,000 bitcoins, which today are worth more than 3,600 million euros. It is, therefore, the largest theft and recovery of cryptocurrencies in history.
The defendants face 25 years in prison.
In a statement, New York Deputy Attorney General Lisa O.Monaco has made it clear that “Cryptocurrencies are not a safe haven for criminals. In a futile effort to maintain digital anonymity , the defendants laundered the stolen funds through a maze of cryptocurrency transactions,” he explains.
“Thanks to the meticulous work of law enforcement, the department once again demonstrated how it can and will follow the money trail, no matter what form it takes.”