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Mt. Gox Suspects Charged: Russian Nationals Indicted by DOJ

12 years later, the United States Department of Justice has closed in on alleged culprits of the infamous Mt. Gox hack.

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Key Takeaways

  • The U.S. DOJ has charged two Russian nationals for their connection to the Mt. Gox hack of 2011.
  • Both suspects will be charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering in the Southern District of New York.
  • One suspect is charged with money laundering conspiracy and operating an unlicensed money services business in the Northern District of California.

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Alexey Bilyuchenko, 43, and Aleksandr Verner, 29, both Russian nationals, have been charged by the U.S. Department of Justice in connection with the 2011 hacking of prominent cryptocurrency exchange Mt. Gox and the illicit operation of another crypto exchange called BTC-e.

The 2011 heist led to Mt. Gox’s eventual insolvency in 2014.

The charges filed by the Southern District of New York include conspiracy to commit money laundering against both defendants, while the Northern District of California has additionally charged Bilyuchenko with money laundering conspiracy and operating an unlicensed money services business.

These charges reveal a complex, years-long operation that spanned multiple continents and involved the theft and laundering of approximately 647,000 BTC from Mt. Gox users. U.S. Attorney Ismail J. Ramsey for the Northern District of California stated in the press release:

“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.”

The indictment alleges that Bilyuchenko and Verner executed a significant hack against Mt. Gox, the largest Bitcoin exchange at the time, in September 2011. Using their unauthorized access, they allowed “bitcoin to be transferred from Mt. Gox’s wallets to bitcoin addresses controlled by Bilyuchenko, Verner, and their co-conspirators.” They supposedly laundered more BTC through two other online exchanges in addition to the 647,000 BTC from Mt. Gox, according to the DOJ.

Posing as providers of advertising services to a Bitcoin brokerage service in New York, the pair allegedly convinced the broker to transfer over $6.6 million to offshore accounts under their control from March 2012 to April 2013. In return, the broker received “credit” on an exchange platform, which was used to launder more than 300,000 stolen BTC:

“The fraudulent Advertising Contract with the New York Bitcoin Broker allegedly enabled Bilyuchenko, Verner, and their co-conspirators to conceal and liquidate bitcoins stolen through the Mt. Gox Hack.”

Bilyuchenko has been accused of joining forces with Alexander Vinnik, a Russian cryptocurrency “money launderer” convicted by the DOJ in 2022, to operate the infamous BTC-e virtual currency exchange from 2011 until it was closed by law enforcement in 2017. The indictment claims BTC-e was one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, allegedly used as a laundering tool for cyber criminals globally.

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