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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

‘Sexy horror comedy’: Bitcoin laundering suspect is also ‘raunchy rapper’ Razzlekhan | Cryptocurrencies

A woman accused of laundering billions of dollars in stolen cryptocurrency alongside her husband may end up becoming better known for her excruciating music career as a self-styled “raunchy rapper” called Razzlekhan.

Heather Morgan was arrested along with her husband, Ilya Lichtenstein, in Manhattan on Tuesday over their alleged involvement in laundering bitcoin stolen in a 2016 hack of the virtual currency exchange Bitfinex. They are not accused of involvement in the hack itself but face charges of conspiring to commit money laundering as well as to defraud the United States.

However, the charges risk being overshadowed by Morgan’s portrayal of an apparently lavish lifestyle online as a “badass money maker” and performer. The 31-year-old has published an extensive catalogue of rap videos, DIY techniques and other lifestyle issues on social media platforms including Instagram and TikTok, calling herself the “Turkish Martha Stewart” or the “Waffle Queen of Korea”.

On her website, Morgan calls herself Razzlekhan or the “Versace Bedouin … the raunchy rapper with more pizzazz than Genghis Khan”.

“I’m a real risk taker/pirate riding the flood/I’m a badass money maker,” she raps in one video in which she refers to herself as the “Crocodile of Wall Street”.

“Come real far but don’t know where I’m headed/Blindly following rules is for fools,” she says, gyrating on Wall Street wearing sunglasses, a leopard print scarf, and shiny gold jacket.

Morgan, 31, was arrested along with her husband, Ilya Lichtenstein, 34, in Manhattan on Tuesday.

The pair is accused of conspiring to launder 119,754 bitcoin stolen after a hacker broke into Bitfinex and initiated more than 2,000 unauthorised transactions. Justice department officials said the transactions at the time were valued at $71m in bitcoin, but with the rise in the currency’s value, it is now valued at over $4.5bn.

Prosecutors claim the pair tried to launder money via a network of currency exchanges or claimed that the money represented payments to Morgan’s startup, the department said. Prosecutors said on Tuesday the illegal proceeds were spent on things ranging from gold and non-fungible tokens to “absolutely mundane things such as purchasing a Walmart gift card for $500”.

At a bail hearing on Friday, a defence attorney called the charges “thin” and overblown. “I don’t think you’ll find that billions of dollars have been laundered,” he said.

However, thanks to their ubiquitous social media presence, details about Morgan, from California, and Lichtenstein, a dual US-Russian national from Illinois also known as “Dutch”, have emerged since their arrest.

“Her art often resembles something in between an acid trip and a delightful nightmare,” Morgan wrote about herself on her website, Razzlekhan.com. “Definitely not for the faint of heart or easily offended.

“Razz likes to push the limits of what people are comfortable with,” she said. “Her style has often been described as ‘sexy horror comedy’.”

The social media posts tout a lavish lifestyle. One video shows a glimpse of an upscale Manhattan apartment with a clear view of the sky and other buildings. In a Facebook post from October, Morgan hinted at wanting to buy a painting from Sotheby’s auction house.

When not making rap videos or posting pictures of her artwork or a Bengal cat on Facebook, Morgan was a contributor to the financial publications Forbes and Inc.

A June 2020 article she wrote for Forbes was titled: “Experts share tips to protect your business from cybercriminals.”

More discreet online, Lichtenstein described himself on LinkedIn as a “technology entrepreneur, coder and investor” and the founder of several tech companies.

In a Facebook post, he recalled how he proposed to Morgan – “my best friend and the woman of my dreams!” It involved what Lichtenstein called a “weird, creative multi-channel marketing campaign” that saw posters of Razzlekhan plastered across New York City and her face on a Times Square billboard.

In one YouTube video, Morgan said: “I’ve also been totally broke and homeless multiple times … Money comes and goes. Sometimes you have it, sometimes you don’t.

“It’s really nice when you have it but nothing in this life is certain,” she said. “Right now I’m basically living my ideal life.”

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