Ilya Lichtenstein, a New York resident, has admitted his involvement in the laundering of stolen Bitcoin valued at $4.5 billion, which was taken during the 2016 Bitfinex hack. This confession is a significant breakthrough as the hacker’s identity had remained unknown until now.
Although doubts were raised about the couple’s capability to execute such a crime, blockchain records provided a clear trail connecting the stolen funds from Bitfinex to a wallet discovered in Lichtenstein’s possession by the authorities. In February 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) managed to seize a substantial amount of the stolen Bitcoin and conducted the largest asset forfeiture operation in the department’s history following the arrests. However, the couple has not yet been charged with the cyberattack.
Lichtenstein’s guilty plea comes seven years after the Bitfinex hack occurred. Federal law enforcement and prosecutors spent six years diligently searching for the stolen funds and eventually found that most of the money remained untouched in a wallet. The investigation followed the movement of the cryptocurrency from the wallet to the traditional banking system, ultimately leading to the identification of the suspects.
This incident highlights the difficulties of laundering cryptocurrency since all transactions are permanently recorded on the blockchain. Despite the frequent occurrence of crypto hacks, identifying the culprits provides a sense of security, knowing that those responsible can be held accountable.