The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has added the missing cryptoqueen Ruja Ignatova to its 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list. The agency also announced a 100,000 USD reward for those who provided information leading to her arrest. The 42-year-old woman from Bulgaria is wanted for allegedly running a cryptocurrency scam known as OneCoin. According to reports, the scheme siphoned more than 4 billion USD by defrauding millions of victims. Ignatova disappeared in 2017 when US authorities issued an arrest warrant against her. She is currently the only woman on FBI’s most wanted fugitive list and the 11th woman in its 72-year-old history.
Missing Crytoqueen Takes Advantage of Global Foolishness
FBI said that Ignatova and her partner Sebastian Greenwood created a cryptocurrency called OneCoin in 2014. After Ignatova’s disappearance, her brother Konstantin Ignatov took over.
The scammers marketed the digital coin as the “bitcoin killer” and encouraged investors to sell their packages to friends and family. They also offered commissions to buyers if they further sold the currency to other people, like building a tree. Federal prosecutors described it as a Ponzi scheme disguised as cryptocurrency.
The worthless OneCoin was never protected by blockchain technology like other cryptocurrencies. The missing cryptoqueen took advantage of the early excitement surrounding cryptocurrencies to lure in investors with limited knowledge. She is facing 8 charges in the US, including wire and securities fraud.
Her partner Greenwood was caught in 2018, and her brother in 2019, who pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering charges. Greenwood could face 40 years in prison while Konstantine can be in for 90.
Investigators found out that the missing cryptoqueen may have run off with at least 500 million USD, a sufficient amount to make someone hide from the law. They described her as having “brown eyes and dark brown to black hair”. However, they also believe that Ignatova may have received a tip that the FBI was looking for her. So, they hypothesized that she may have acquired “high-quality fake identity documents”, changed her appearance or had plastic surgery. They also did not rule out the option that she might have been killed.
She was last seen on 25 October 2017, travelling from Sofia, Bulgaria, to Athens, Greece. Ignatova can speak multiple languages, including Bulgarian, English, and German. Investigators noted that she was fond of living lavishly and had powerful connections in wealthy countries like Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Russia, and the United Arab Emirates.
Recent Cryptocurrency Scams
There have been countless crypto scams since the phenomenon appeared, but nothing topped what the missing cryptoqueen did. Bitconnect was another pyramid scheme similar to OneCoin, which brought in around 2.4 billion USD. Its founder Satish Kumbhani left his hometown in India and has been on the run since shutting down the scam in 2018.
Another one was Plexcoin, which was shut down by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 2017. The agency ordered it to pay back the 20 million USD it stole from its victims by promising them a 1,354% return. There were many fake coins like these in the early stages of the cryptocurrency boom. But now, it’s hard for these coins to strive as more investors have become aware of them. Perhaps this is why there are unique kinds of hacks now. Just like the one 2 years ago when Twitter accounts of billionaires started asking social media users to send them cryptocurrency.