Heather Morgan, one-half of the now infamous Bitcoin Bonnie and Clyde — the eccentric Manhattan couple arrested Feb. 8 for allegedly trying to launder $3.6 billion in stolen cryptocurrency — is holed up in a $1.5 million FiDi two-bedroom. But she might want to answer her phones, because Hollywood is calling. (As of publication, her voicemail was full.)
Moving at the warp speed of crypto valuation itself, her outrageous story has, in just two weeks, inspired two documentaries and a scripted TV series.
“A lot of people have been trying to come up with a way to tell a story about crypto and the world we live in today,” said Nick Bilton, who is co-executive-producing a Netflix documentary with Chris Smith (best known for his doc, “Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened“) signed on to direct. “It’s hard to tell it through technology. You want to tell it through human characters. Heather and Ilya are the most human.”
Part of the story’s appeal is how unlikely they appeared for a major heist — but also how truly odd Morgan, who rapped under the name Razzlekhan, seems.
The 31-year-old’s detention memo describes her spitting at least one verse that now seems uncannily revelatory: “Spear phish your password / Have all your funds transferred.”
“I think she is broken,” Bilton said of Morgan, who identifies as a journalist, entrepreneur and international economist. “In high school she was made fun of for her voice. She did the rap stuff as a way of dealing with her own anxiety and insecurity. Putting aside the crime, I think she had a rough go of it. She tried really hard to fit in … [and] was probably overcompensating,”
Forbes Entertainment, in collaboration with Entertainment One, will also produce a doc about Morgan and her husband, Ilya “Dutch” Lichtenstein, 34, based on the publication’s own reporting, as well as a scripted TV series.
Between 2017 and 2021, Morgan freelanced for one of Forbes’ female-oriented verticals, ForbesWomen. Ironically, on her bio there, she describes herself as “reverse-engineering black markets to think of better ways to combat fraud and cybercrime…”
The various productions will aim to uncover how she and her husband ended up with at least 95,000 bitcoin allegedly hacked from the Hong Kong exchange Bitfinex in 2016, according to federal agents. (The couple, who did not enter a plea, do not face charges for masterminding the heist; an additional 25,000 coins remain at large.) By the time investigators caught up with Morgan and Lichtenstein, $2.9 million had allegedly already been laundered and the couple seemed ready to light out for Eastern Europe — complete with $40,000 in cash, a number of fake IDs and a bag labeled “burner phones.”
Bilton said that part of his research will look at the psychological impact of sitting on all that hot crypto — especially in light of the value jacking up from $71 million in 2016 to today’s multi-billion-dollar total.
“Did they [steal] a Ferrari and it turned into a 747? Was that stressful?” Bilton said of the bitcoin. “Was that exciting? Does it turn you into a rapper? Imagine having a sum of money to launder that keeps going up.”
Outside the couple’s austere apartment building, which was once part of a Hyatt Hotel, a tenant recalled encountering Morgan — who favored hennaed hands, metallic-looking jackets and strategically torn pants — in the elevator. “I saw her dressing differently from other people here,” the neighbor said, ” and not really saying much.”
“She had a distinct fashion style, but they were totally unassuming,” added a second resident who lives on the 33rd floor, same as the pair.
“Nothing about how they present online or what has been said about them feels consistent with people who would be able to [launder billions of dollars in cryptocurrency],” Tucker Tooley, who will produce the Forbes/Entertainment One scripted project, told The Post of Morgan and Lichtenstein. “If you saw them in a vacuum, you would not think they could do something like this.”
Bilton believes that there is much more to the two than has thus far been revealed. “I feel that there has been a shotgun rush to judge and make fun of them,” he told The Post. “Pull back the layers and you see that Heather is a sweet person. To me, it feels like a more human story [that goes beyond] making fun of her rap and making fun of him eating cat food.”
According to Rolling Stone, Lichtenstein was seen on Morgan’s TikTok explaining how he taste-tested their Bengal cat Clarissa’s food to make sure it was up to par.
As for Lichtenstein, who founded an online ad-data company called Mixrank, Bilton is a bit less sure: “He’s more of an enigma. He worked in tech and did not make hundreds of millions of dollars but was relatively successful.”
Following their bust, Morgan is out of jail and under house arrest. Lichtenstein, a Russian émigré, is being held as a flight risk. A judge believed him to be skillful at crafting false identities and moving around money, which kiboshed his opportunity to chill with his wife in their apartment that Zillow values at $1,518,800 and, according to a 2018 CityRealty listing, once came with hotel amenities such as room-service and housekeeping (a doorman told The Post that this is no longer the case). As per real estate records obtained by The Post, the couple are renting their condo which, according to New York magazine, is decorated with animal pelts and a taxidermy alligator head.
The first tenant said the arrest was particularly shocking because of the building’s discretion: “People who live here don’t invite each other to parties and socialize or talk about one other.”
That filmic interest in this story is moving as fast as the news cycle does not surprise Bilton, a Vanity Fair special correspondent. “Twenty years ago, this would have been a 20,000-word story in the New Yorker,” he said. “But we don’t do those anymore. The new 20,000-word magazine feature is a multi-part documentary.”