Heather Morgan and Ilya Lichtenstein, two bitcoin swindlers accused of laundering $4.5 billion, talk about their wild lifestyles.
While teaching herself Russian, creating Salvador Dali-inspired art, or recording rap songs about the excesses of Wall Street, Heather Morgan was concerned about cybersecurity at the height of the pandemic in 2020.
Scammers and cybercriminals are taking advantage of this disruption, Morgan, a self-described "entrepreneur," wrote in a June 2020 Forbes column. Additionally, she expressed concern for the vulnerability of elderly victims to online scams.
When you meet someone online, don't believe everything you read about them.
I can't believe it.
According to the DOJ's charges against Morgan Lichtenstein, 31, and her Russian-born husband, Ilya "Dutch" Lichtenstein, 34, they attempted to launder an astounding $4.5 billion worth of cryptocurrency. The gold-bomber-jacketed "crocodile of Wall Street" is the poster child for cybercrime, complete with gold bomber jacket.
Tuesday, Morgan and Lichtenstein were taken into custody at their high-rise Wall Street apartment for allegedly trying to launder Bitcoins stolen from Hong Kong's Bitfinex, one of the world's largest virtual cryptocurrency exchanges, in 2016. No one knows if the couple was involved in the hack that led to the theft of Bitcoins, but it is possible that they were.
Lichtenstein, who describes himself as a "technology entrepreneur, coder, and investor" on LinkedIn, is alleged to have transferred the stolen cryptocurrency to a digital wallet. At times, Morgan described herself as both a "irreverent comedic rapper" and a "entrepreneur." She goes by the name Razzlekhan.
"basically a mix of Hunter S. Thompson and Diane Arbus with a sprinkle of Tom Green," she tells the New York Times.
It claims that Morgan is "More fearless and more shameful than ever before, she's taking on everyone from big software companies to health care to financial bros." She's also been spotted rapping on Wall Street while donning dark glasses and a leopard-print scarf..
According to the complaint, the couple, who are still in custody, used a variety of money-laundering methods. If true, the defendants set up fake accounts and transferred the stolen money "in small amounts" over thousands of transactions to avoid detection, according to court papers.
Prosecutors in the federal criminal complaint allege that the defendants spread their funds across multiple virtual currency exchanges, which led to their accounts being frozen at times.
It's alleged that, among other things, Morgan and Lichtenstein spent the illegally obtained funds on a $500 Walmart gift card, gold, and NFTs. According to the prosecution, Lichtenstein kept a file called "passport ideas" on his computer, which contained a bag of "burner phones" that were found in their apartment.
It appeared that the tech-savvy couple, who kept a Bengal cat named Clarissa as a pet, were on the fast track to stardom before they were arrested. Their homes were located in high-end buildings in San Francisco and New York City. Per real estate listings, rent in their Wall Street building starts at over $5,000 for a studio.
After hearing about the arrests, Maria Grineva, a former colleague of Lichtenstein's in Silicon Valley, was shocked.
She told The Post, "I am stunned." "I got the impression that he was a sincere individual." "I'd never have predicted this," he said.
Instead of rapping or starting her own clothing line inspired by North African culture, Morgan wrote columns for publications like Inc. and Forbes about her own experiences as a young businesswoman. Women are better negotiators than men according to one of her articles.
Many experienced businessmen who were at least twice my age I out-negotiated in my early twenties (and even late teens), she wrote. A few years ago, I had the pleasure of competing against a "bro" with an overbearing 'frat boy' personality in a deal. As it turned out, the decision-maker, who was more intellectual and introverted, was put off by him.
In public records, Heather Rhiannon Morgan's birth date is May 28, 1990, in Ontario, Oregon, and her parents' address is listed as a post office box in Tehama, a town of just over 400 people in rural Northern California.
When contacted by The Post, her mother, Gale Morgan, said, "I don't want to speak to you right now."
It wasn't until Morgan was in elementary school that he realized that his high-pitched voice and speech impediment made it impossible for him to pursue his dream of becoming a rapper. This girl had to go to the speech-language pathologist for most of her junior high years.
"I've been self-conscious of my voice my whole life," she confessed in a Forbes column two years ago, when asked why she decided to become a rapper in order to get over her fears.
She went on to say, "I also had braces put on at the age of twelve and had to wear them until college." "I'm probably a case study in several medical textbooks because my teeth were so unusually screwed up."
As a 19-year-old, Morgan set out on her own to visit Japan, she wrote. Later, she moved to Ankara and claimed to have honed her negotiating skills by observing rug merchants and shop owners in the souks. Ankara was her next stop.
Bilkent University in Istanbul is where she studied "economic research on Turkish international monetary policy and trade," according to her LinkedIn profile. In 2011, Morgan earned a bachelor's degree in economics and international relations from the University of California, Davis. The American University in Cairo, where she pursued a graduate degree, was another stop on her educational journey.
In another Forbes column, she explained why women tend to be better negotiators than men. "Part of my strategy always involves creating a sense of'reciprocity,'" she wrote. "In other words, people are more likely to do business with you if you give them a thoughtful present."
In her early twenties, Morgan realized she had a knack for sales and decided to go out on her own. According to her LinkedIn profile, she founded two companies that assisted clients in creating "highly personalized email templates... utilizing game theory, data science and tested copywriting best practices." She has said that the companies made "millions" of dollars in the first few months.
Morgan and Lichtenstein may have crossed paths in San Francisco in 2014, when Lichtenstein joined Morgan's startup, SalesFolk, as a "advisor." Public records reveal that the two lived together in a city high-rise in 2017 and that their apartment was a luxury one.
According to Morgan, the following year was "one of the best and worst years of my life," in a Forbes article. As soon as I started working for a company that I once trusted, I received legal threats, learned that dishonest employees were faking numbers, and was bullied and shamed into removing content that I strongly believed the public needed to see."
When both of her parents were diagnosed with cancer within a week of each other, things took a turn for the worse.
She wrote, "Things really sucked." Her engagement to her longtime boyfriend, who goes by the nickname Dutch, was celebrated a year later, in 2019.
It's unclear when Lichtenstein's family moved to the United States, but his arrest warrant says he was born in Rostov, Russia, in 1987.
According to public records, Yevgeny Lichtenstein, formerly Likhtenshteyn, is a Chicago-based realtor.
The University of Wisconsin, Madison, where Lichtenstein graduated in 2010 with a bachelor's degree in psychology, is where Lichtenstein grew up, according to LinkedIn. While still in college, he moved to San Francisco and founded "a customer discovery platform" called MixRank to aid sales teams in discovering new markets and customers.
Lichtenstein and Morgan moved to Manhattan after their time in San Francisco, where they rented an apartment near the High Line before settling in Wall Street.
A year ago, in June of this year, Lichtenstein proposed to Morgan. After months of research, he was able to propose to his best friend and the woman of his dreams. For the sake of his alter ego, Morgan, he decided to plaster New York City with billboards and posters advertising his music.
According to what he wrote, "I knew I had to do something memorable that would show how much I love and value Heather, not just as an accomplished entrepreneur but as an ultra-weird creative genius." At the same time, if you're Heather, you'd expect any proposal to be both practical and profitable."
The bizarre antics of Morgan, on the other hand, seemed to have little interest in Lichtenstein. Moon and Stars" is the name of her most recent rap song.
I love and support you, but I don't want to be a part of it," he tells them. "Hey, Heather, I'm not amused," he says in the middle of the song.