After over a decade, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has tracked down and charged the hackers who stole hundreds of thousands of Bitcoin from the defunct crypto exchange giant Mt. Gox.
The primary criminals identified are Russian nationals Alexey Bilyuchenko (43) and Aleksandr Verner (29).
Mt Gox Hackers Found
As stated by the DOJ in a press release on Friday, both Bilyuchenko and Verner are charged with “conspiring to launder approximately 647,000 bitcoins from their hack of Mt. Gox.”
Though Mt. Gox officially suspended trading in February 2014, the hack reportedly dates back to roughly September 2011, when co-conspirators “gained unauthorized access,” to the Japanese computer system holding the private keys controlling customers’ Bitcoin.
The hackers then stole coins through to May 2014, after which the exchange had already forfeited plans to rebuild. The bulk of stolen assets was funneled through Bitcoin addresses connected to accounts controlled by Bilyuchenko, Verner, and their co-conspirators at other crypto exchanges.
“IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) is specially equipped to follow the complex financial trail left by criminals, and we are dedicated to holding those accountable for crimes committed,” said IRS-CI Chief Jim Lee in a statement.
Prior to its failure, Mt. Gox was one of the most dominant Bitcoin exchanges of all time, having controlled 70% of Bitcoin trading volume by 2014. Its hack still stands as the largest exchange hack of all time in BTC-denominated terms, with its lost 744,408 coins today representing over $19 billion in value.
The Mt.Gox bankruptcy process is only wrapping up this year, with the exchange’s largest creditor having opted to receive 90% of its owed assets in BTC in February.
Beyond Mt. Gox
After his massive Mt. Gox steal, Bilyuchenko also conspired with Alexander Vinnik to operate BTC-e from 2011 to 2017 – a cryptocurrency exchange funded using “ill-gotten gains from Mt. Gox.”
According to the DOJ, BTC-e processed billions of dollars worth of transactions, much of which came from “hacking incidents, ransomware events, identity theft schemes, corrupt public officials, and narcotics distribution rings.”
Bilyuchenko has been charged with money laundering conspiracy for his crimes at Mt. Gox, and with both money laundering conspiracy and operating an unlicensed money services business at BTC-e.