It took Netflix three days to order a documentary about her, but a woman’s social media accounts have been telling a wild story for years.
Heather Morgan, 31, is half of a husband-and-wife duo charged last week with conspiring to launder 119,754 bitcoin, a cache worth about $4.5 billion, prompting the streaming service to enlist a “Tiger King” executive producer to direct an upcoming series about them. Morgan and Ilya Lichtenstein, 34, are accused of trying to launder the cryptocurrency stolen after a hacker breached the exchange Bitfinex in 2016 and initiated more than 2,000 unauthorized transactions. Prosecutors said the bitcoin was sent to a digital wallet controlled by Lichtenstein.
Morgan and Lichtenstein are in custody pending a hearing scheduled for this week. Their attorney did not respond to requests for comment for this story.
The investigation includes the largest single seizure of funds in Justice Department history, but what has drawn the most online attention is Morgan’s two somewhat-distinct personas: one as a successful, go-getting tech entrepreneur and another as the self-proclaimed “Crocodile of Wall Street” rapping about investing in meme stocks, dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and getting high in a cemetery.
Lichtenstein has a lower online profile than his wife; he described himself as a “tech entrepreneur, explorer, and occasional magician” in a 2018 blog post. According to court documents, the dual Russian and American citizen grew up in Glenview, Ill., a suburb of Chicago. He studied at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and co-founded MixRank, a sales firm initially funded by Y Combinator and investors including Mark Cuban, according to the company’s website.
Lichtenstein’s public missives include the occasional tech tweets, but Morgan has a prolific social media presence, branding herself as a surrealist rapper who has “more pizzazz” than Genghis Khan in posts that coexist with her more staid image as a business influencer and marketing expert.
Before debuting Razzlekhan, her rap persona, Morgan grew up in Tehama, a town of about 400 people in Northern California, according to court documents.
After graduating with honors, she moved to Cairo – where she worked at the World Bank, according to her LinkedIn profile – and later Hong Kong.
She was a “very motivated, very bright and very ambitious” economics student, said Travis Lybbert, an economics professor at the University of California at Davis who hired Morgan as an unpaid research assistant in 2011, after she had graduated.
Their interactions were over video chat, but Lybbert detected “a restlessness to her, professionally.” She had an impressive knowledge of the Middle East and planned to work in the field of developmental economics. Eventually, they co-wrote a chapter in a book about food security and sociopolitical stability.
“Professionally, she was very smooth, and there was kind of a hunger for her finding and leveraging opportunities,” he said.
Lybbert recalled a polished and put-together young woman, an image juxtaposed by her gold-jacketed rap persona who strutted about New York while rapping “an anthem for misfits and weirdos” in a video for her 2019 song “Versace Bedouin.” But the professor said he saw glimpses of a Morgan “who always cared about her appearance.”
“As a young professional, you’re trained to present a certain image of aspiration, success and capability. And she was good at it,” Lybbert said. “It seems to me looking at the pictures that she still has that same carefully curated presentation to the world. But she’s presenting to maybe a different world and with different objectives.”
In 2014, Morgan – who was living in San Francisco – founded SalesFolk, a marketing firm dedicated to making email pitches, according to records filed in California. A year earlier, she had met her future husband at a party, according to a post in Lichtenstein’s Facebook profile showed to The Post by one of his high school friends. This and other Lichtenstein posts were not publicly available.
But Morgan said she decided to pursue rapping while dealing with burnout that followed a professional mishap in 2018.
“Suddenly, everything started to fall apart during a business trip to Asia,” she wrote in a 2019 Forbes article. Inspired by artists Yolandi, Awkwafina and Tierra Whack – “who seemed to break the mold and ‘own their weirdness,’ ” she wrote – Morgan tried her hand at an alternate career.
“I wanted to do that too,” Morgan wrote. “I desperately wanted a chance to get to express myself authentically and creatively, without all the constraints of the corporate business world.”
Morgan’s songs are as raunchy as they are eccentric (one rhymes “Jane Austen romance” with “taxidermy class”). But a duality moves through her musical repertoire that includes serious topics, such as health care, with sillier songs about genie wishes.
“I’m definitely not trying to win a Grammy for my voice, but I am addicted to rap,” Morgan wrote in 2019. “I know I still have lots of room to improve, but that’s what I like about it, and I intend to keep rapping into my eighties, in between building new software.”
The coexistence of the woman’s personas shocked some who knew her exclusively as Razzlekhan.
“It wasn’t that she was weird – it was more like she was going so far out of her way to be extra untraditional and weird,” said Dan, a New Jersey-based photographer who spoke to The Washington Post on the condition that only his first name be used because he feared professional blowback for discussing a potential client. The two did not work together, he said, in part because of her “bizarre ideas” and in part because he was busy with other projects.
Morgan contacted him last year to ask whether he could shoot her engagement photos and other images to celebrate her marriage. She wanted a “vibe as sexy horror comedy with a romantic slant and a splash of absurdism and occasional grossness,” she wrote in a message to him. In the pitch, Morgan – referring to herself as Razzlekhan – described herself as being “the more weird, flashy, colorful one.” Lichtenstein – Dutch in the message – “wears more gray and black but sometimes leather,” she wrote.
Her ideas included “weird couple photos with a surreal twist,” Dan said, such as posing with a banana and several life-size cardboard cutouts.
“The most interesting one – I guess you can call it that,” the photographer said while reading the pitch, “was a square-shaped photo of Dutch and all of his wives photoshopped together. Basically Heather as normal and Razzlekhan and several other characters she does in wigs … basically all grabbing him or touching him in various ways.”
But the greatest surprise, Dan said, came after a Google search. Trying to get a read on someone he described as “a postmodern piece of art that just doesn’t exist in this current reality,” Dan discovered Morgan’s business-oriented, professional side – the one splashed across the slew of articles she wrote as a contributor to Forbes and Inc.com.
“Going down that rabbit hole was the greatest shock,” he said. “You have this seemingly super professional and smart entrepreneur writing for reputable sites about business. It just didn’t make sense how she was, at the same time, so blissfully in her own world, ignorant to the norms of society. It’s honestly jarring.”
Forbes spokesperson Bill Hankes said Morgan was a contributor from July 2017 until September 2021, “when we ended our relationship with her.” In that time, Morgan wrote more than 55 articles that included topics on the “soul food” served in last year’s Met Gala, and an entrepreneur’s “secret sauce” for creating billion-dollar companies.
At least one of those articles, which included tips to help businesses protect themselves from cybercriminals, touched on a topic related to allegations that drove her into the spotlight last week.
“Companies that didn’t already have distributed teams or work from home policies have struggled to transition to going fully remote amidst the pandemic,” Morgan wrote in 2020. “Cybercriminals and fraudsters are taking advantage of this unexpected disruption, leading to a spike in scams and cybercrime.”