‘She is his light’: Friends and relatives of crypto couple paint picture of deep love and strong family ties in plea for bail
It all came to him in his sleep.
Ilya Lichtenstein, the Russian-born tech entrepreneur accused of one of history’s biggest bitcoin heists, knew he had fallen in love with his future wife, Heather Morgan, when he had a dream in which she “stood out as bright color” among crowds of people dressed in gray.
“She is his light,” Morgan’s mother, Gale, wrote in a letter to the federal judge handling the money laundering and fraud case against Lichtenstein and her daughter, pleading that he be released on bond while awaiting trial.
The letter was one of a dozen submitted by the pair’s defense team in which friends and relatives painted a picture of a loving couple deeply rooted to their families and communities, who are unlikely to flee the country.
“ ‘He’s said that he wasn’t expecting to fall in love with her.‘”
Earlier this week, Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the district court in the District of Columbia, ruled that Morgan, 31, be released on $3 million bond, but ordered Lichtenstein, 34, held without bail. The couple was arrested on Feb. 9 on charges stemming from the 2016 hack of the Bitfinex crypto exchange in which bitcoin worth $4.5 billion today was stolen.
Prosecutors had argued that even though investigators had seized $3.6 billion in stolen bitcoin from crypto wallets the couple controlled, it was believed that they still had access to accounts containing some $328 million of unaccounted money.
They also argued that the couple had previously acquired phony identification documents from the dark web and had been laying the groundwork for relocating to Russia or Ukraine. Lichtenstein, who is also known as “Dutch” is a dual Russian-U.S. citizen.
As part of Morgan’s bail conditions, her parents are required to put their California home up as security and she will be required to remain at home with electronic monitoring.
An attorney for the couple declined to comment on the letters on Friday.
Morgan’s mother, a retired school librarian, wrote about the deep feelings Lichtenstein had towards her daughter, an outgoing world traveler, who maintained an artistic alter-ego as a comedic rapper known as Razzlekhan.
“He is always telling her how she has made his life so much better and made him a much better person,” she wrote. “He’s said that he wasn’t expecting to fall in love with her, but realized he was in love with her when he had a dream that there were crowds of people all in gray and she stood out as bright color.”
The letters submitted by the couple’s defense that were made public didn’t include any from Lichtenstein’s family, but Morgan’s mother wrote that she often heard him speak to his family by phone and that it seemed they played an important role in his life.
Morgan’s father, Lee, noted that the couple were deeply devoted to their Bengal cat, Clarissa, and would never abandon her, or the frozen embryos they had stored in New York in an effort to start a family.
In the letters, friends of Lichtenstein said he was extremely close to his parents and brother in suburban Chicago. The couple’s attorney said Lichtenstein’s family had moved there in the early 1990s in order to flee religious persecution in Russia.
“Ilya is extremely close to his family, especially his mother and father and his little brother,” wrote friend Inna Lapin, who said her family had left Russia and moved to the same Chicago suburb around the same time. “He has a close community of friends and family here and I cannot imagine he would ever wish to leave the U.S.”
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