San Francisco, August 9: A US programmer has admitted to stealing billions of dollars in Bitcoin from virtual currency Bitfinex in 2016. Ilya Lichtenstein, who was born in Russia, made the admission as part of a plea agreement with federal prosecutors in the US, who arrested Lichtenstein and his wife Heather Morgan last year on charges of laundering the stolen funds, reports Silicon.

Prosecutors did not identify Lichtenstein as the hacker at the time of their arrest in February 2022, stating that the funds had been transferred into a cryptocurrency wallet under his control. Bitcoin Prices Crashes Over Reports of Cryptocurrency Exchange Binance Laying Off 1,000 Employees.

Under the terms of the agreement, Lichtenstein and Morgan pleaded guilty to attempting to launder the crypto coins, which were worth approximately $4.5 billion at the time of their arrest, making it the largest financial seizure in US Justice Department history, according to the report. At the time of their theft in 2016, the 1,19,000 Bitcoins were worth approximately $72 million.

Moreover, the report said that Morgan, who pleaded guilty to an additional count of conspiracy to defraud the US, faces up to 10 years in prison, while Lichtenstein faces up to 20 years. Cryptocurrency Makes 19 People Super Rich: Bitcoin Creator Satoshi Nakamoto, 18 Other Individuals Across World Become Billionaires via Cryptocurrency.

Bitfinex initially deducted 36 per cent of the value of all of its customer accounts as a result of the hack but later reimbursed its customers, implying that the company will profit once the coins are returned.

"In a futile effort to maintain digital anonymity, the defendants laundered stolen funds through a labyrinth of cryptocurrency transactions," Deputy US Attorney General Lisa O Monaco was quoted as saying.

According to prosecutors, the couple converted some of the funds into physical gold coins, which Morgan buried. While the couple tried to launder stolen Bitcoins, Morgan portrayed herself as a tech entrepreneur, writing columns for Forbes and filming rap videos under the alias Razzlekhan, the "Crocodile of Wall Street".

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Aug 09, 2023 10:40 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website