U.S judge releases one half of the couple that stole $3.6B in Bitfinex hack

  • A U.S federal judge has released Heather Morgan on bail, just a week after another judge had ruled that the couple could be released on bail.
  • The judge argued that the two had plenty of BTC which wasn’t seized and that they could flee the country if both were released on bail.

One of the alleged masterminds behind one of the biggest heists in crypto history, the 2016 Bitfinex hack, has been granted bail, with her partner in crime set to spend more time behind bars after his bail application was overruled. Heather Morgan’s bail was granted by a Columbia judge who overturned her husband’s application which had been granted a week earlier.

As CNF reported, Morgan and her husband Ilya Lichtenstein were accused of being the two people who allegedly stole 119,754 BTC from Bitfinex, which at the time was worth a mere $71 million, but at today’s prices are worth over $5.2 billion. The U.S Justice Department seized most of the BTC recently, calling it the “largest financial seizure ever.”

Read More: U.S. seizes $3.6 billion worth of Bitcoin (BTC) from 2016 Bitfinex hack, DoJ probes New York couple

After being arrested almost a week ago, Morgan has been released on bail. The American entrepreneur, who also dabbles in rap under the pseudonym Razzhekhan “as a form of self-care” was released under strict conditions.

Last week, Morgan and her husband Ilya applied to be released on bond, a request which a New York magistrate judge granted. However, Judge Beryll Howell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia stayed the ruling on an emergency basis.

Yesterday, February 14, Judge Howell ruled that only Morgan could be released on bail. She agreed with prosecutors who alleged that if both were released, they were likely to flee the country. As it stands, the DoJ hasn’t been able to recover all the BTC that the two lovebirds allegedly stole, and prosecutors argued that the two could use this stash to flee the country.

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Moreover, prosecutors accused the two of already planning to flee the U.S, pointing to evidence found in their home. It includes financial accounts and phone numbers which the two opened up in 2019 in Ukraine and files on Ilya’s computer which contain stolen identities, both male and female, for Russian and Ukrainian nationalities.

While Judge Howell declined to grant bail to Ilya, she still remains the couple’s best chance of redemption. The judge is quite crypto-savvy and was quick to correct prosecutors when they made a statement or assumption about crypto that she disagreed with.

During the Monday hearing, Judge Howell was also full of questions for the prosecutors that showed her grasp of crypto, including delving into the private keys and the blockchain transactions.

The two, if convicted of conspiracy to launder billions of dollars in crypto and cyber-theft, stand to spend 25 years in prison.

About Author

Steve has been a blockchain writer for four years, and a crypto enthusiast for even longer. He is most excited by the application of blockchain to solve the challenges facing developing nations.

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