From ‘Crypto Queen’ to ‘Crypto Criminal’, Ruja Ignatova is now the FBI’s most wanted!

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In 2014, the emergence of OneCoin shook the shackles of Bitcoin’s popularity. In 2017, cryptocurrency and its founder shook the entire world with a Ponzi crypto scheme. In 2022, Dr. Ruja Ignatova has been declared one of the FBI’s most wanted criminals. So, who is she and how did she scam the world during a time when Bitcoin had reached the maximum height of trustworthiness and fame?   

Who is Ruja Ignatova?   

Dr. Ruja Ignatova is a Bulgarian-German convicted fraudster. She is globally popular as the founder of a Ponzi scheme known as ‘OneCoin’ which was described as “one of the biggest scams in history” by The Times. Moreover, she was the subject of the 2019 BBC podcast series “The Missing Crypto Queen”.   

ruja-ignatova-ceoIgnatova has been on the run since 2017. She has been escaping from various international law enforcement agencies. In early 2019, she was charged in absentia by U.S. authorities for wire fraud, securities fraud, and money laundering. Currently, the FBI added her to their “Ten Most Wanted” list.   

‘OneCoin’: Ignatova’s Ponzi Scheme  

In 2014, Ignatova launched OneCoin, ostensibly aiming to replace Bitcoin as the world’s leading virtual money. OneCoin operated around the world, including in the US, and at one point claimed to have at least three million investors. With her sterling resume and educational background from Oxford and work experience at McKinsey, Ignatova tapped a global network to market the cryptocurrency to friends and family in exchange for their payouts.  

Along with her conspirators, she pulled in at least $3.4 Billion and possibly over $ 4 billion from the fourth quarter of 2014 to the third quarter of 2016. However, the currency had no real value and could not be used to buy anything.   

According to the AFP news agency, OneCoin was not backed by any secured, independent blockchain-type technology as other cryptocurrencies are. Citing an official, the agency said that OneCoin was a classic Ponzi scheme, in which early investors are encouraged to find others and then paid out by receipts from later investors.  

Arrests by Law Enforcement Agencies 

In 2017, Ignatova disappeared as international investigators began to close in on her group. She traveled from Sofia, Bulgaria, to Athens, Greece, on October 25, 2017, and has not been seen since. The US unsealed an indictment against her in 2019, charging her with wire fraud, conspiracy to launder money, and securities fraud.  

On May 11, Europol announced it had added Ignatova to its most-wanted list, and offered a 5,000-euro ($5,200) reward for information on her whereabouts. Her brother Konstantin Ignatov was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport in March 2019 and later pleaded guilty to wire fraud in a deal with US authorities. Another partner, Sebastian Greenwood, was detained in Thailand in 2018 and then extradited to the United States, where he remains in jail awaiting trial. Another accomplice, US attorney Mark Scott, was convicted in November 2019 of laundering $400 million for the group.  

Once dubbed as the ‘Crypto Queen’, Ruja Ignatova is currently added to the FBI’s list of Ten Most Wanted fugitives for allegedly swindling millions of investors of more than $4 billion through the OneCoin cryptocurrency company she founded.  

Anwesha Mishra

Anwesha has been a creative writer for a while. Currently, on her pursuit of tech writing, she is diving into the realms of technology to produce better content on the forever-changing world of technology. In her free time, you’ll find her humming tunes of her favourite shows or reading a book.

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