Heather Morgan is a lot of things: A 31-year-old economist and self-proclaimed “serial entrepreneur” who’s worked in tech for a decade, a Forbes contributor from 2018 to 2021, a surrealist artist whose beyond-trippy pieces are often inspired by her synesthesia and sometimes include prosthetic eyeballs, and an outlandish rapper who spits about villainous capitalists. She has also been accused by the Department of Justice of participating in criminal activities.
On Tuesday, February 8th, feds arrested Morgan and her husband Ilya “Dutch” Lichtenstein for allegedly conspiring to launder $4.5 billion in stolen Bitcoin. According to a press release from the DOJ, the government seized $3.6 billion “directly linked” to a 2016 hack of a virtual currency exchange called Bitfinex. Court documents reveal that the unnamed hacker had stolen 119,754 bitcoin — valued around $4.5 billion in February of 2022 — and moved chunks of it through a “complex” web of 2,000 unauthorized transactions that eventually led to “a digital wallet under Lichtenstein’s control.”
“Today’s arrests, and the department’s largest financial seizure ever, show that cryptocurrency is not a safe haven for criminals,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco said in a statement. “In a futile effort to maintain digital anonymity, the defendants laundered stolen funds through a labyrinth of cryptocurrency transactions.” In the same release, Jim Lee, chief of the IRS’ Criminal Investigation department called the matter a “methodical and calculated scheme,” and U.S. attorney Matthew M. Graves said the DOJ used “21st century investigative techniques” (whatever that means) to get to arrive at the arrests. Morgan and Lichtenstein are scheduled to be arraigned in Manhattan federal court Tuesday afternoon.
Little, however, is said about Morgan and Lichtenstein’s backgrounds, aside from the latter being a Russian-U.S. national. According to LinkedIn, Lichtenstein, 34, studied psychology at the University of Wisconsin from 2006 to the 2010 while also working in the internet marketing industry on the side. Not long after he graduated, he co-founded a tech company called MixRank, which, according to Crunchbase, got off the ground with help from Y Combinator and a slew of early investors including billionaire Mark Cuban. He has since served as an advisor for various startups and become an angel investor “interested in blockchain technology, automation, and big data.”
Somewhere along the way, he and Morgan apparently got married. It appears they both worked at EndPass — “a decentralized identity platform that lets people take back control of their digital identity and secure personal data” — and SalesFolk, which has supposedly “helped 870+ B2B sales teams” master email marketing, which is particularly odd given that Morgan has rapped about the term “B2B” standing for “bullshit-to-bullshit” under her artist name, Razzlekhan. (According to her website, the name “is like Genghis Khan, but with more pizzazz.”)
In a YouTube video titled “Silicon Valley Parody Rap – SaaSholes (2020),” Morgan starts her song by saying she’s “sick and tired of all these SaaSholes” who are “fake motherfuckers just about growth.” (“SaaS” stands for “software as a service” and is often used to reference web-based tech.) A crude montage of images kicks off with a photo of Mark Cuban, whose face is then covered by a big red X. Morgan started re-promoting this video last fall when Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes went to court for wire fraud, tweeting that she hopes Holmes, who’s referenced in the song, “roasts for what she did.”
On Morgan’s designated website for Razzlekhan, she refers to herself as “the infamous Crocodile of Wall Street,” who’s “more fearless and more shameless than ever before” and “taking on everyone from big software companies to healthcare to finance bros.” In another music video for a track dubbed “Versace Bedouin,” Morgan’s voice can be heard saying that the music is for “the entrepreneurs and hackers, all the misfits and smart slackers.” Dressed in gold and leopard-print fabrics for that, she rollicks down Wall Street while encouraging anyone who will listen to “always be a G.O.A.T., not a goddamn sheep.”
To call any of this music is a bit absurd, though. In the clip for “Versace Bedouin,” she writhes awkwardly to what sounds like a distorted pungi — the Indian instrument used to charm cobras — entwined with below-basic beats. In “SaaSholes,” a demonic accordion-like sound cavorts around the click-clacking of a keyboard and synth effects worthy of a low-grade video game. As for her vocal performance, all of Morgan’s videos suggest that she has no understanding of flow whatsoever. (In the one for “Menace to Society” — which shows her attempting to twerk around Ho Chi Minh City and using her bare feet to lift a beer bottle to her mouth, among other things — her pitch is particularly grating, as she fluctuates from shrill to comically low.)
It’s not just her music that’s inexplicable. While Morgan calls herself the “Turkish Martha Stewart” on her personal Facebook page, the Razzlekhan website suggests she might descend from a variety of places with no explanation as to why: “No one knows for sure where this rapper’s from — could be the North African desert, the jungles of Vietnam, or another universe. All that matters is she’s here to stick up for misfits and underdogs everywhere. (We do know that she’s descended from a nomadic tribe, though!)”
In a 2019 Forbes article penned by Morgan, she says she decided to pursue rapping while dealing with severe burnout that followed a professional mishap in 2018. “Suddenly, everything started to fall apart during a business trip to Asia,” she writes, adding that she then received “legal threats,” learned of “dishonest employees […] fudging numbers,” and was bullied by “people she once deeply respected,” who were apparently pushing her to remove content she “firmly believed the public needed to see.” (Morgan doesn’t make it explicitly clear which business she’s referring to, but the only company of hers that she mentions is SalesFolk.)
If legal threats inspired a rap career, who knows what an arrest will cause her to do. Morgan did not immediately respond to Rolling Stone‘s request for comment.
From Rolling Stone US