‘Cryptoqueen' Ruja Ignatova to Be Added to FBI's Most-Wanted List
Ruja Ignatova, the woman also known as ‘Cryptoqueen,’ is being added to the FBI’s list of Ten Most Wanted fugitives for allegedly swindling millions of investors to send her at least $4 billion in the OneCoin cryptocurrency company she founded.
Ruja Ignatova, the woman also known as ‘Cryptoqueen,' is being added to the FBI's list of Ten Most Wanted fugitives for allegedly swindling millions of investors to send her at least $4 billion in the OneCoin cryptocurrency company she founded.
US authorities on Thursday said Ignatova was the mastermind behind OneCoin, which they called one of the largest pyramid schemes in history. While Ignatova claimed OneCoin was backed by a blockchain, it was nonexistent, said Michael Driscoll, head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's New York office.
“Ignatova had a sterling resume, she reportedly studied law at Oxford and worked at McKinsey, but she now sits side by side on the top 10 list of cartel leaders, kidnappers and murderers,” Damian Williams, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York said at a news conference Thursday.
The US unsealed an indictment against her in 2019, charging her with wire fraud, conspiracy to launder money and securities fraud. The FBI is offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to her arrest. Her exploits became the subject of a successful BBC podcast “The Missing Cryptoqueen.” Inside the Biggest Bitcoin Hack in History No Real Value OneCoin generated 3.4 billion euros ($3.78 billion) in revenue from the fourth quarter of 2014 to the third quarter of 2016, but had no real value and couldn't be used to buy anything, according to prosecutors. It operated as a multilevel marketing network that paid commissions to its more than 3 million members worldwide for recruiting others to buy OneCoin packages, prosecutors said.
A German citizen who lived in Bulgaria, Ignatova created OneCoin in 2014 and led the organization, according to Driscoll. It operated around the world, including in the US, and at one point claimed to have at least three million investors.
Ignatova filled auditoriums across the globe urging investors to join “the financial revolution” and promising them that OneCoin “would transform the life of the unbanked people,” Williams said. Instead she was “just capitalizing on the frenzied speculation in the early days of cryptocurrency.”
After she grew suspicious that the US was watching her, Ignatova got on a flight to Greece and then vanished, Driscoll said, noting she has ties to Russia, Greece and is believed to have traveled to other Eastern European countries and the United Arab Emirates. Brother Arrested Ignatova's brother, Konstantin Ignatov, was arrested in March 2019 in Los Angeles. He later pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering charges and testified for prosecutors against Mark S. Scott, a lawyer who was found guilty of helping launder almost $400 million from OneCoin. Scott is challenging the verdict, saying there is evidence Konstantin Ignatov lied on the stand.
Another man, David Pike, pleaded guilty in October to conspiracy for bank fraud for helping Scott launder money. He was sentenced to two years probation in March.
Europol placed her on its most-wanted list last month, and offered a 5,000-euro ($5,200) award for information that leads to her capture.
The case is US v Scott, 17-cr-630, US District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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