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“Crocodile of Wall Street” and her husband plead guilty to giant-sized cryptocrimes – Naked Security

Title: The Crocodile of Wall Street: A Tale of Bitcoin Theft and Money Laundering

Introduction:
In August 2016, Heather Morgan and her husband Ilya Lichtenstein, known as the Crocodile of Wall Street, illegally obtained 120,000 bitcoins worth $72 million. Despite the potential for a life of luxury, the couple faced challenges in cashing out their stolen cryptocurrency. Eventually, in early 2022, both were arrested and pleaded guilty to money laundering charges. This article explores the details of their case and the intriguing restitution process that may provide unique returns to different claimants.

The Theft and Attempts to Conceal:
The stolen bitcoins were traced back to Lichtenstein and Morgan through their complex laundering techniques. Lichtenstein hacked into Bitfinex’s network and fraudulently authorized over 2,000 transactions, transferring 119,754 bitcoins to a wallet under his control. To cover his tracks, Lichtenstein deleted access credentials and log files. Morgan assisted in the money laundering process, employing sophisticated techniques such as using fictitious identities, automating transactions, and depositing funds into darknet markets and cryptocurrency exchanges. The couple also converted the stolen bitcoins to other cryptocurrencies, utilized mixing services, and even exchanged a portion for gold, which Morgan concealed by burying.

Guilty Pleas and Potential Sentences:
After a year-and-a-half, both suspects pleaded guilty to money laundering charges. The U.S. Department of Justice revealed that Lichtenstein was the hacker behind the theft. He now faces a potential prison sentence of up to 20 years, while Morgan could be sentenced to up to 10 years behind bars.

Restitution and Potential Returns:
The restitution process for seized and forfeited property may yield peculiar results for different claimants. Depending on the fate of the stolen bitcoins and their conversion into gold, claimants may receive varying returns. If the stolen bitcoins were cashed out for gold in early 2017 and returned as gold bullion, claimants could expect a return of approximately 260%. For untouched bitcoins returned directly, the return could reach 5000%. However, if the coins were swapped for gold in late 2021, claimants may see returns exceeding 10,000%.

Complexities of the Cryptocoin Ecosystem:
This case serves as a reminder of the complexity and confusion within the cryptocurrency ecosystem. The ability to trace stolen and laundered transactions within a pseudoanonymous system like Bitcoin showcases the advancements in investigative techniques. The podcast “Tracers in the Dark – The Global Hunt for the Crime Lords of Cryptocurrency” delves deeper into this subject, shedding light on the tracking of illicit transactions.

Key Points:
1. Heather Morgan and Ilya Lichtenstein illegally obtained 120,000 bitcoins worth $72 million in 2016.
2. They faced challenges in cashing out the stolen bitcoins due to their illegal acquisition.
3. Both pleaded guilty to money laundering charges in early 2022.
4. Restitution process for seized property may yield varying returns for claimants.
5. The case highlights the complexities of tracking stolen and laundered transactions in the cryptocurrency ecosystem.

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