Financial Crime: Crypto couple wife, Heather ‘Razzlekhan’ Morgan, hires her own defense lawyer — and splits from her husband’s defense team
The crypto couple are each going solo in court.
Heather Morgan, the comedic rapper turned accused bitcoin bandit has hired her own defense lawyer in the billion dollar crypto money laundering case against her and her husband.
The move comes just days after prosecutors signaled that Morgan and her husband, Ilya Lichtenstein, may be engaged in discussions to reach a plea deal.
On Monday, defense attorney Marshall Miller, filed documents in court stating he was taking over as Morgan’s legal representative. Prior to that, she had been represented by the same group of attorneys as her husband.
It is not abnormal for two defendants — even a husband and wife — facing the same charges to have separate attorneys. But the sudden change amid potential plea-bargain talks raises the possibility that she may seek her own resolution to the case.
A representative for Miller declined to comment. A lawyer for Lichtenstein also declined to comment.
The couple have been charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and defraud the U.S. government in connection to the 2016 hack of the crypto currency exchange Bitfinex in which 120,000 bitcoin were stolen. At the time, the bitcoin was worth about $71 million, but given the wild gains in value for the crypto currency since then, it is now valued at $4.5 billion.
Investigators said they had recovered about $3.6 billion of the stolen bitcoin from wallets that the couple controlled. Neither have been charged with committing the hack itself.
Evidence presented so far suggests that prosecutors have a more damning case against Lichtenstein, as many of the crypto accounts and wallets used to launder the money were connected to him. But prosecutors say Morgan had played an active role in moving the money, even using accounts connected to her business to launder some of the illicit bitcoin.
Lichtenstein is being held without bail as he awaits trial. Morgan was released on $3 million bond and has been confined to the couple’s Wall Street apartment.
On Monday, prosecutors and the couple’s defense attorneys agreed to waive their right to a speedy trial. Under federal law, prosecutors are required to bring defendants in felony criminal cases to trial within 70 days of being indicted.
Both sides agreed to waive the stipulation given the amount of time defense attorneys would need to review the evidence gathered by prosecutors and also “to allow the parties to engage in discussions of possible resolutions short of trial,” according to the filing.
Legal experts said language of this kind is not abnormal and doesn’t necessarily mean the two sides are looking to reach a plea agreement.