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The arrests of Ilya Lichtenstein and Heather Morgan left the world of cryptocurrency incredulous: Could this goofy young couple have been Bitcoin’s Bonnie and Clyde?

Ilya Lichtenstein, left, and Heather Morgan were charged with conspiracy to launder billions of dollars worth of Bitcoin.
Ilya Lichtenstein, left, and Heather Morgan were charged with conspiracy to launder billions of dollars worth of Bitcoin.
Ilya Lichtenstein, left, and Heather Morgan were charged with conspiracy to launder billions of dollars worth of Bitcoin. Credit... District of Columbia U.S. Attorney's Office

Ali Watkins Benjamin Weiser

Feb. 13, 2022

When anonymous hackers infiltrated the cryptocurrency exchange Bitfinex in 2016, it shook the nascent world of digital currency and prompted speculation about who might have stolen what was then $71 million in Bitcoin.

But unlike traditional financial transactions, Bitcoin trades are publicly visible — moving the coins risked revealing who was behind the heist. And so for six years, as the value of Bitcoin soared, the loot sat in plain sight online as tiny fractions of the giant sum occasionally disappeared in a blizzard of complex transactions.