US Justice Department Charges Two Russian Nationals With Stealing Thousands of Bitcoin Linked to Mt. Gox
The US Department of Justice unsealed charges against Russian nationals Alexey Bilyuchenko and Aleksandr Verner, for allegedly stealing thousands of bitcoin from the Mt.Gox crypto exchange back in 2011 to 2014.
Bilyuchenko, 43, and Verner, 29, were charged on Friday in the Southern District of New York “with conspiring to launder approximately 647,000 bitcoins,” which the department said was the majority of the bitcoins belonging to Mt. Gox’s customers.
Bilyuchenko and Verner “used their unauthorized access to Mt. Gox’s server to fraudulently cause bitcoins to be transferred from Mt. Gox’s wallets to bitcoin addresses controlled by Bilyuchenko, Verner, and their co-conspirators,” the Justice Department said.
They then laundered much of the stolen bitcoins through addresses associated with accounts under their names, the department said.
“As alleged in the indictment, the defendants gained unauthorized access to a server used by Mt. Gox to house cryptocurrency wallets. Mt. Gox was the world’s largest bitcoin exchange at the time, and the defendants used their unauthorized access to steal the bulk of the bitcoins held by Mt. Gox customers,” said FBI Assistant Director in Charge Michael J. Driscoll, in a statement.
Bilyuchenko also worked with Alexander Vinnik and others to operate the BTC-e exchange from 2011 until it was later shut down by law enforcement in July 2017, the department said.
BTC-e exchange was a crypto trading platform that allowed its users to trade bitcoin with anonymity.
“This announcement marks an important milestone in two major cryptocurrency investigations. As alleged in the indictments, starting in 2011, Bilyuchenko and Verner stole a massive amount of cryptocurrency from Mt. Gox, contributing to the exchange’s ultimate insolvency. Armed with the ill-gotten gains from Mt. Gox, Bilyuchenko allegedly went on to help set up the notorious BTC-e virtual currency exchange, which laundered funds for cyber criminals worldwide,” said the Justice Department’s Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. in a statement on Friday.
If convicted on the conspiracy to commit money laundering, each of the defendants — Bilyuchenko and Verner — could face up to 20 years in prison.