US Justice Department charges two men in Mt. Gox hack


The United States Justice Department has unsealed charges against two men it says are responsible for the $400 million hack of former Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox. According to the announcement, 43-year-old Alexey Bilyuchenko and 29-year-old Aleksandr Verner allegedly conspired to launder 647,000 Bitcoin (BTC) they stole from Mt. Gox through a hack of the exchange’s servers. 

Bilyuchenko is also charged with conspiring to operate the BTC-e exchange, which was shut down in 2017 due to money laundering allegations.

Prosecutors claim the hack occurred over a period of more than a year, from September 2011 until at least May 2014. During this time, the two men allegedly gained control of a Mt. Gox server located in Japan. They then proceeded to periodically make transfers of BTC from Mt. Gox to themselves until the “vast majority” of customers’ BTC had been drained from the exchange, prosecutors say.

After gaining possession of the Bitcoin, the men attempted to sell it through another exchange they controlled. To facilitate these sales, the two men entered into an allegedly fraudulent contract with a Bitcoin brokerage firm located in New York. The brokerage firm purchased the stolen BTC from the hackers by sending wire transfers to various offshore bank accounts, prosecutors argue. The Bitcoin was left in the possession of the alleged hackers’ exchange but was credited to the brokerage firm’s account within it.

The announcement does not say whether BTC-e was the exchange used in the fraudulent deal, instead referring to the exchange used as “Exchange-1.” Prosecutors claim that the pair received approximately $6.6 million from the deal.

Related: Mt. Gox repayment registrations close: Here’s what’s next

Mt. Gox was one of the first major cryptocurrency exchanges. It filed for bankruptcy in March 2014 after claiming the hack pushed it into insolvency.

BTC-e operated from 2011 to 2017. In 2017, the FBI liquidated some of the exchange's cryptocurrency, claiming that the funds were earned through money laundering. BTC-e’s founder, Alexander Vinnik, is currently serving prison time for his connection with the exchange. In May, Vinnik’s attorney attempted to get him released as part of a prisoner swap with the Russian Federation.

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