Fact Check: US Government Did NOT Buy $5 Billion In Bitcoin -- It Was Seizure Of Stolen Funds

Fact Check

  • by: Sarah Thompson
Fact Check: US Government Did NOT Buy $5 Billion In Bitcoin -- It Was Seizure Of Stolen Funds Seized Spoils

Did the U.S. government invest in $71 million worth of bitcoin, which has now grown in value to almost $5 billion? No, that's not true: A video clip has been presented deceptively to make a seizure of stolen funds sound like an investment. The U.S. government recovered and seized 94,000 bitcoin, part of the 120,000 bitcoin stolen in the 2016 hack of the crypto exchange Bitfinex. Husband and wife Ilya Lichtenstein and Heather Morgan were arrested in 2022 and subsequently pleaded guilty to money-laundering conspiracies in 2023.

The claim appeared in a video (archived here) on Instagram by @wealth.worlds on March 26, 2024. The post was captioned:

The US Government has acquired $5 billion in Bitcoin.

Enjoy this content? Follow @wealth.worlds ⚜️

🎥 unknown - DM

#entrepreneur #wealth #motivation #mindset #success #wifimoney #moneymindset

(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Tue Apr 30 16:11:16 2024 UTC)

The video has text captioning that reads:

The US government has acquired $5 billion worth of Bitcoin.
The U.S. DOJ on BTC
BREAKING 🚨 NEWS !! DOJ says, 'we have 120,000 #bitcoin that has a basis of $71M, today the value of that #Bitcoin is $5.4 Billion.'

Throughout the 15-second video clip in the post on Instagram, text captioning appears under the video. The video is an authentic clip from a 4:58-minute video posted on the U.S. Justice Department YouTube channel showing Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco speaking in a February 8, 2022, announcement. The 15-second clip occurs at 39 seconds into the YouTube video. Although neither the video or the audio of the shortened clip have been altered, two words -- "We have" -- were added to the Instagram video captioning. This addition, and use of the word "acquired," creates a post that implies something other than what was in the original announcement. A viewer of the short clip would see the sentence, "We have almost 120,000 bitcoin" as they hear Monaco say "almost 120,000 Bitcoin." They would not hear any of the introductory information about the cryptocurrency in question.

In the original video (starting at 0:25) Monaco says:

The Department has charged Ilya Lichtenstein and Heather Morgan for their alleged roles in a conspiracy to launder stolen cryptocurrency taken during the 2016 hack of a virtual currency exchange. That hack resulted in the theft of almost 120,000 bitcoin, which at the time was worth approximately 71 million dollars. Today, the value of that bitcoin has grown to over 4.5 billion dollars.

The text captioning in the shortened clip reads:

We have almost 120,000 Bitcoin, which at the time was worth approximately 71 million dollars. Today, the value of that Bitcoin has grown to over 4.5 billion dollars.

The Lead Stories composite image below shows the captioning as it appears on the two videos.


(Source: Lead Stories composite image showing YouTube and Instagram screenshots taken on Tue Apr 30 20:38:59 2024 UTC)

The February 8, 2022, press release from the Office of the Deputy Attorney General reviews the basics of the case. A 20-page PDF Statement of Facts comprises the complaint with arrest warrant, describing in more detail the money-laundering scheme. An August 3, 2023, press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Columbia, announced the guilty pleas:

Lichtenstein pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Morgan pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering conspiracy and one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, each of which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Additional Lead Stories fact checks involving claims around bitcoin can be found here.

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  Sarah Thompson

Sarah Thompson lives with her family and pets on a small farm in Indiana. She founded a Facebook page and a blog called “Exploiting the Niche” in 2017 to help others learn about manipulative tactics and avoid scams on social media. Since then she has collaborated with journalists in the USA, Canada and Australia and since December 2019 she works as a Social Media Authenticity Analyst at Lead Stories.


Read more about or contact Sarah Thompson

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