Launderers who took Bitfinex for $5.2 billion planned to flee to Ukraine
From our previous article detailing the calculating methods of this fraudster couple, the thing that surprised our readers the most was their utter fecklessness. For one thing, who buys gadgets with stolen crypto and then has them delivered to their home address? However, the latest revelations from their trial would suggest that Lichtenstein and Morgan simply didn't manage to pull off their plan in full.
US citizen Heather Morgan studied monetary policy at Bilkent University in Turkey, going on to pursue an MA at the American University in Cairo after graduating from her Bachelor's course. Ilya Lichtenstein, for his part, has dual US and Russian citizenship. Relocating abroad wouldn't have been a big deal for this couple at all, but what they were actually planning was to escape the watchful eye of Big Brother for good.
The investigation's deciphering of Lichtenstein's personal archive led to a file entitled "passport_ideas", which contained links to various counterfeit passport sellers on the darknet, as well as plans, scanned documents and user account records from Yandex.Money (YooMoney as of September 2020). The couple visited Ukraine in 2019, after which the files with counterfeit documentation were edited multiple times. A transcript showed how one seller had offered to check the status of the document via the Ukrainian Federal Migration Service: nd.dmsu.gov.ua.
Another file revealed in detail methods of receiving mail anonymously via the Ukrainian postal service, including information on the locations of video surveillance cameras in post offices. A search of their apartment found a bag labelled "burner phone" and a Kievstar SIM card.
Investigators used these grounds to have a New York court's decision to grant bail overturned. After several hours, a District of Columbia judge approved the request due to Lichtenstein and Morgan being significant flight risks.
The Bitfinex crypto exchange heist saw ₿120,000 stolen, which was only worth $70 million before 2017. This explains why the pair only began taking active steps to hide their identity in the last four years.
This story will soon be the subject of a TV drama: Netflix has ordered a multi-year series on the motives behind "the biggest financial crime in history". It's possible that TV decides to give Lichtenstein and Morgan a less mundane ending.
StormGain analytical group
(cryptocurrency trading, exchange and storage platform)