WASHINGTON — A federal choose on Monday ordered the pretrial detention of a person charged with overseeing a sweeping scheme to launder billions of {dollars} of stolen Bitcoin whereas upholding a call by a New York choose to launch his spouse pending trial.

Chief Choose Beryl A. Howell of the Federal District Court docket within the District of Columbia mentioned Ilya Lichtenstein, 34, a Russian émigré and tech investor, appeared to have vital motivation to flee, and might need assets to take action that investigators had missed. However she dominated that his spouse, Heather Morgan, 31, an entrepreneur and a self-styled rapper generally known as Razzlekhan, met the factors for supervised launch.

Mr. Lichtenstein and Ms. Morgan had been arrested and accused of a scheme to launder the 119,754 Bitcoin stolen in a 2016 hack of Bitfinex, a cryptocurrency change based mostly in Hong Kong, inserting them on the middle of a international monetary thriller.

Investigators informed the choose that that they had discovered no proof the couple was concerned within the theft, however they introduced a sprawling community of accounts by means of which they mentioned the pair was working to launder the funds.

The confiscation of the Bitcoin that remained in Mr. Lichtenstein’s pockets on Feb. 1, value roughly $3.6 billion on the time, was the Justice Division’s largest monetary seizure ever, officers have mentioned. The case has been seen as a watershed within the regulation and maybe investigation of the murky and infrequently illicit world of cryptocurrency.

In reviewing the case in opposition to the couple, Choose Howell appeared to conclude that Mr. Lichtenstein was more proficient in the kind of monetary sleight of hand wanted to launder the stolen funds and probably safe a future for the pair outdoors america. Given what she described as a familiarity with false identities and ability at shifting monetary belongings discreetly, Choose Howell expressed concern that Mr. Lichtenstein was a flight danger.

A lawyer representing the couple denied that that they had ever deliberate to flee, citing their household ties in america, in addition to the truth that that they had embryos frozen in New York in hopes of conceiving a toddler, and that that they had not tried to go away the nation even after indications that they had been below investigation final 12 months.

However a prosecutor confused that whereas the federal government had secured the majority of the stolen funds, the couple had been recorded shifting stolen cash between varied cryptocurrencies and had the expertise with encrypted accounts essential to duck investigators in shifting belongings abroad.

Choose Howell expressed concern that Mr. Lichtenstein and Ms. Morgan had been being represented by the identical lawyer, particularly as she appeared to conclude that Mr. Lichtenstein’s involvement and planning far outweighed that of Ms. Morgan.

Though she mentioned the severity of the fees had elevated the motivation to flee “exponentially,” she left intact a earlier choose’s ruling that Ms. Morgan be launched on $3 million bond, posting her mother and father’ dwelling as collateral.


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