Judge resets cypto couple plea hearings ahead of Trump appearance in D.C. court

Booking photos for Heather Morgan and Ilya Lichtenstein.

Courtesy: Alexandria Adult Detention Center.

A federal judge in Washington, D.C., reset the times for Thursday’s plea hearings of the “Crypto Couple” accused of trying to launder $4.5 billion in stolen bitcoin in anticipation of a scheduled appearance in the same courthouse later in the day by former President Donald Trump, on a new criminal indictment.

The order came after people had already begun lining up outside the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse, in the hope of getting a seat at Trump’s arraignment.

Trump was charged Tuesday on four felony counts related to his efforts to overturn his loss in the 2020 election to President Joe Biden.

The former president was summoned to appear in U.S. District Court in Washington at 4 p.m. ET Thursday before Magistrate Judge Moxila Upadhyaya. The Department of Justice expects him to be there in person.

The bitcoin couple, Ilya “Dutch” Lichtenstein and Heather “Razzlekahn” Rhiannon Morgan, were already due to appear in the same court on the same day for separate plea hearings at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. respectively. Court filings last month suggested that they will plead guilty at those hearings.

But on Wednesday, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly moved Lichtenstein’s hearing to 9:30 a.m. and his wife Morgan’s hearing to 11 a.m. Thursday.

The judge’s order said the rescheduling was “due to exigent circumstances.”

People lined up outside E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2023, for planned arraignment of Donald Trump.

Ryan Reilly | NBC News

Lichtenstein and Morgan were arrested in February 2022 on a criminal complaint, accused of trying to launder 119,754 bitcoin stolen in the 2016 hack of the cryptocurrency exchange Bitfinex. They had pleaded not guilty to the charges in that complaint of money laundering conspiracy and conspiracy to defraud the United States.

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Last month, prosecutors filed a new charging document against the couple, with the same criminal counts. That document, known as an information, is routinely used by prosecutors when defendants have agreed to plead guilty.

Morgan is free on a $3 million bond while Lichtenstein, a Russian emigré, has been held in jail since his arrest without bail after being ruled a flight risk.

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