WASHINGTON- A federal judge ruled Monday that Heather Morgan will be released pending trial, while her husband, Ilya Lichtenstein, will remain behind bars as they both face trial for allegedly laundering billions in stolen bitcoin.
Judge Beryl Howell said the evidence suggests that Morgan was an integral player in the scheme but that Lichtenstein seemed more involved in the planning and execution of the alleged crimes.
Howell also said Morgan’s health conditions were a factor, as she recently had breast surgery and has follow-up appointments scheduled. She will be on home detention with an ankle bracelet GPS monitor.
The defense pointed out that both defendants had their families in court who were willing to put up their homes in exchange for a guarantee that the defendants would appear for all court dates.
However, Howell ultimately ruled that there was a significant flight risk, and agreed with government prosecutors who argued that several hundred million in cryptocurrency could buy a new house or "buy each of their parents a private island."
The judge also pointed out that Lichtenstein is a dual citizen of the United States and Russia and that both he and his wife speak Russian.
Government prosecutors contend that Lichtenstein had a file titled "passport ideas," which contained several darknet vendors that sell passports, bank cards and other forms of identification.
The New York couple was arrested this month for an alleged conspiracy to launder cryptocurrency that was stolen during the 2016 hack of Bitfinex, a virtual currency exchange, and presently valued at approximately $4.5 billion.
Both are accused of using various laundering techniques, including using fake identifies to set up online accounts; using computer programs to execute fast, automated transactions; depositing stolen funds in numerous crypto exchange accounts to cover transaction history; converting bitcoin to other forms of virtual currency; and using U.S.-based business accounts to make their funds seem legitimate.
Over five years, a hacker allegedly laundered proceeds of 119,754 bitcoin via 2,000 transactions on Bitfinex's website and transferred the funds into Lichtenstein's digital wallet.
They both face up to 25 years in prison.
Fox Business' Audrey Conklin, Daniella Genovese and Louis Casiano contributed to this report.