The Fed also accuses them of conspiring to launder about 647K bitcoins
The U.S. Department of Justice has charged two Russian nationals for hacking and causing the subsequent collapse of Mt. Gox, one of the largest and most popular crypto exchanges.
In an unsealed indictment, the DoJ named Alexey Bilyuchenko, 43, and Aleksandr Verner, 29, of hacking the exchange and conspiring to launder about 647,000 bitcoins, worth about $17.2 billion today.
Bilyuchenko was also charged for conspiring with one Alexander Vinnik to operate the “illicit exchange,” BTC-e, from 2011 to 2017. BTC-e was shut down by U.S. law enforcement in 2017 and Vinnik was extradited to the U.S. from Greece in 2022 for allegedly running BTC-e and laundering money.
Mt. Gox shut down in 2014 after filing for bankruptcy when the theft was revealed, and then was ordered to liquidate.
Bilyuchenko and Verner “stole a massive amount of cryptocurrency from Mt. Gox, contributing to the exchange’s ultimate insolvency,” Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, said in a statement.
Through Bilyuchenko’s “ill-gotten gains from Mt. Gox,” he was allegedly able to set up the BTC-e exchange, which laundered funds for criminals globally, Polite noted.
“For years, Bilyuchenko and his co-conspirators allegedly operated a digital currency exchange that enabled criminals around the world – including computer hackers, ransomware actors, narcotics rings, and corrupt public officials – to launder billions of dollars,” U.S. Attorney Ismail J. Ramsey for the Northern District of California, said in the statement.
In March, CoinDesk reported that BTC-e funds were moving on the blockchain. A crypto wallet received about 3,299 bitcoin from BTC-e’s wallet in November 2022, the exchange wallet’s first transaction sent since 2017. Six years ago, it sent about 10,000 bitcoin to two unidentified recipients.
The DOJ filing does not clarify whether those recipients were Bilyuchenko and Verner.