Busted! U.S. Feds Recover $3.6B Bitcoin From 2016 Hack

4 min readFeb 11, 2022

Cash.Tech Newsletter #16: Big win for crypto space highlights need for self-custodial ownership

More than five years after unknown hackers stole approximately 120,000 BTC from crypto exchange Bitfinex, U.S. authorities have recovered a majority of the stolen funds. The latest bust is a big win for the industry as it nullifies claims that cryptocurrencies are ideal for facilitating money laundering and nefarious activities.

In this week’s Cash.Tech Newsletter, we review the Bitfinex hack and recovery news. This intriguing story highlights the need for crypto investors to embrace secure self-custodial solutions such as the Cash.Tech Wallet. Beforehand, we bring you up to speed with what the team has been working on this past week.

Cash.Tech development update

This week, the Cash.Tech team successfully completed a major sprint toward the development of the Merchant Protocol. The team has finalized the requirements for the merchant registration process which includes the user story, acceptance criteria, and edge cases. In a separate release we’ll showcase the Merchant Protocol next week.

Alongside the UX design, the team has refined the requirements for merchant product listing and creation. These components will be developed after the merchant registration is complete in the next few weeks.

Other growth efforts are still underway. For instance, we are continuing the process of onboarding new developers to the core Cash.Tech blockchain team and also pursuing an Apple Store release for the latest app versions. The team is also researching the best analytics integrations for the Cash.Tech wallet, while the core developer team will kick start work on the finalized Merchant Protocol features.

The Cash.Tech team reiterates its commitment to meet critical development milestones and will share regular updates with the community each step of the way. Additionally, we will continue to prioritize the release of features that support the growth of our user base, and in turn, boost the utility of $CATE tokens within the application.

U.S Officials confiscates $3.6B in BTC stolen since 2016

On February 8th, the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) announced the arrest of a New York-based couple, Ilya Lichtenstein and his wife, Heather Morgan. The couple were accused of an alleged conspiracy to launder proceeds from the hack of crypto exchange Bitfinex in 2016.

As per Tuesday’s DoJ announcement, a wallet under Lichtenstein’s control had received the stolen Bitfinex funds and the couple had managed to launder some 25,000 BTC over the past five years. U.S. security officials were able to hack into Lichtenstein’s cloud storage account where the encrypted private key was stored and recovered 96,000 BTC (appr. $3.6 billion) which is now under government custody.

The story began in August 2016 when exactly 119,756 BTC was stolen from Bitfinex. The exchange reported at the time that its security systems were breached, allowing up to 2,000 unauthorized withdrawals. Bitfinex was one of the world’s largest crypto trading venues in 2016 and the stolen amount represented 57% of all bitcoin deposits on the platform.

Efforts to recover the stolen bitcoins since then have largely proved abortive. The only recovered amount on record before this week’s bust, is the 27.6 BTC (appr. $104,000) which U.S authorities returned to Bitfinex in 2019. Even Bitfinex’s $400 million bounty for anyone who provided information leading to the recovery of the funds failed to yield results.

Tuesday’s bust (more than five years after the initial theft) proved to be a significant win for the crypto space for several reasons. For one, it returns much needed capital to Bitfinex at a time when the exchange has been maligned for incorrect backing of affiliated stablecoin Tether (USDT). More importantly, the recovery demonstrated once again that the open nature of blockchain technology makes pseudonymous cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin unfit for use in illicit transactions.

Global crypto-linked illicit transactions on the decline

The Bitfinex hack and other developments have fueled the false mainstream narrative that the majority of crypto transactions are linked to illicit activity. However, recent data from crypto security firm Chainalysis has revealed that the percentage of crypto-linked illicit transactions has been on the decline since 2019. Last year, only 0.15% of crypto transactions were linked to illegal activities.

(Source: Chainalysis)

“Not Your Keys, Not Your Coins:” Embrace Self-Custody with Cash.Tech

Another key takeaway from the Bitfinex hack recovery is the need for users to adopt self-custodial solutions like the Cash.Tech Wallet. Users who control their private keys are not susceptible to the long-term losses associated with third-party exchange hacks. Cash.Tech Wallet provides a seamless interface for users to access all the possibilities of crypto, including trading on decentralized exchanges, without giving up ownership of their assets.

Cash.Tech is already live on Mainnet for Android and iOS users. Android users can now access the app on Google Playstore, with the iOS version coming to the Apple Store in the coming weeks! Apple Users can access Cash.Tech via https://testflight.apple.com/join/In3h8jr9.




Cash Tech is DeFi as it’s meant to be. Digital currency conversion, payments, staking, and lending. All within one app. https://t.me/cashtechchat