FBI Adds Crypto Queen Ruja Ignatova To Top Ten Most Wanted
Ruja Ignatova, the self-proclaimed “crypto queen” who spearheaded one of the world’s biggest cryptocurrency scams, is now on the Federal Bureau of Investigation or FBI’s Ten Most Wanted fugitives. The Bureau is offering a $100,000 reward for information that will lead to her arrest.
Ignatova is said to be behind the cryptocurrency called OneCoin which was launched in 2014 and allegedly defrauded investors of more than $4 billion for over three years. She has been missing since 2017, when US officials first issued her a warrant of arrest.
Unlike Bitcoin which is secured by a global network of miners who maintain a public ledger, or blockchain. The investigators noted that Igntova’s OneCoin was worthless, essentially minted out of nothing, and was never safeguarded by the blockchain technology used by other cryptocurrencies.
“She timed her scheme perfectly, capitalizing on the frenzied speculation of the early days of cryptocurrency,” –Damian Williams, Manhattan’s top federal prosecutor
In 2014, Ignatova established OneCoin Ltd, and began to advertise her currency as a “bitcoin killer.” The investigators stated that she made false representations to receive huge amounts of funds from investors— many of whom did not fully understand how to invest in cryptocurrency.
OneCoin Ltd, operated around the world, and generated more than 3 million investors from over a hundred countries. Ignatova promised investors big returns at minimal risk and, according to prosecutors, offered buyers a commission, if they sold OneCoin to more people, so as to lure even more people into buying her fraudulent currency.
According to the records obtained during the investigation, between the last quarter of 2014 and third quarter of 2016 alone, OneCoin generated €3.353 billion (₱192,753,911,000.00) in sales revenue and earned “profits” of €2.232 billion (₱128,310,984,000.00).
As per the allegations made by federal prosecutors, OneCoin was essentially a Ponzi scheme disguised as a cryptocurrency.
Konstantin, Ignatova’s brother, who also took a leadership role with OneCoin, was arrested in 2019 and subsequently pleaded guilty to multiple felonies that same year.
Ruja Ignatova is currently the only woman and the 11th woman to be included in the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitive List in its 72-year history. Ignatova was charged in 2019 with eight counts including wire fraud and securities fraud. In February 2018, a superseding indictment was issued, charging Ignatova with one count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to commit securities fraud and securities fraud. Each count carries a sentence of up to 20 years.
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