FBI Adds ‘Cryptoqueen’ to Its 10 Most Wanted List Over $4B OneCoin Scam
In what is said to be one of the largest Ponzi schemes in history.
Ruja Ignatova, the self-described “Cryptoqueen,” was added to the FBI’s list of its Ten Most Wanted list on Thursday, June 30, after allegedly defrauding investors out of $4 billion USD in 2019 using a cryptocurrency multi-level marketing scheme.
Launched by Ignatova in 2014, OneCoin, whose main business was selling educational material for trading, also offered its members commissions for enticing others to buy the material. Within these educational packages were “tokens,” which were used to “mine” OneCoins.
However, the company didn’t run on a blockchain. Additionally, the majority of the educational material found in these packages was discovered to be plagiarized from several sources. The Bulgaria-based platform eventually closed down in 2017 without notice, despite individuals affiliated with the scam continuing to accept funds from investors.
Investigators say that Ignatova allegedly defrauded billions of dollars from investors worldwide. In 2017, after realizing that the FBI was investigating the scheme, Ignatova traveled from Sofia, Bulgaria, to Athens, Greece, and has not been seen since.
The United States District Court, Southern District of New York, issued a federal warrant for her arrest in 2017. Shortly after, she was charged with eight counts, including wire fraud and securities fraud for running what is believed to be “one of the largest Ponzi schemes in history,” according to Damian Williams, a top federal prosecutor in Manhattan.
In 2019, the FBI’s then-Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney Jr. said that the company didn’t provide investors with any way to track their money — nor could the tokens be used to purchase anything.
“She timed her scheme perfectly, capitalizing on the frenzied speculation of the early days of cryptocurrency,” said Williams.
She was charged alongside former corporate lawyer Mark Scott, who prosecutors said laundered approximately $400 million USD for OneCoin. He was subsequently found guilty of conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to commit bank fraud.
The FBI is currently offering a $100,000 bounty for information leading to Ignatova’s capture.