US DoJ Indicts Two Russians for Hacking Mt. Gox Crypto Exchange

The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) has unveiled charges against two Russian individuals accused of orchestrating a cyber attack that led to the collapse of Mt. Gox, a prominent cryptocurrency exchange. Alexey Bilyuchenko, 43, and Aleksandr Verner, 29, are alleged to have hacked the exchange, conspiring to launder approximately 647,000 bitcoins, equivalent to $17.2 billion today.

Notably, Bilyuchenko faces additional charges for collaborating with Alexander Vinnik to operate the illicit digital currency exchange known as BTC-e from 2011 to 2017. BTC-e was shut down by U.S. authorities in 2017, and Vinnik was later extradited from Greece to the U.S. in 2022 to face accusations of running BTC-e and engaging in money laundering.

Mt. Gox faced financial turmoil in 2014 when the theft was exposed, resulting in the exchange filing for bankruptcy and being subsequently ordered to liquidate its operations.

According to Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr., the stolen cryptocurrency by Bilyuchenko and Verner significantly contributed to the insolvency of Mt. Gox. Polite further emphasized that Bilyuchenko allegedly employed his ill-gotten gains from Mt. Gox to establish the BTC-e exchange, which facilitated money laundering activities for criminal enterprises worldwide.

U.S. Attorney Ismail J. Ramsey for the Northern District of California highlighted that Bilyuchenko and his co-conspirators allegedly ran a digital currency exchange that enabled various criminal entities, including hackers, ransomware actors, drug rings, and corrupt officials, to launder billions of dollars.

Recently, there were reports of BTC-e funds being transferred on the blockchain. In November 2022, a crypto wallet received around 3,299 bitcoins from BTC-e’s wallet, marking the first transaction sent from the exchange wallet since 2017. Additionally, six years ago, approximately 10,000 bitcoins were sent to two undisclosed recipients.

The DoJ’s filing does not explicitly reveal whether Bilyuchenko and Verner were the intended recipients of those transferred funds.