Ruja Ignatova, also called the Crypto Queen, has been added to the FBI’s Most Wanted List and has become the first crypto criminal on it with a reward of up to $100,000 for information leading to her capture.
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The FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitive list now includes Ruja Ignatova, popularly known as “Cryptoqueen,” for allegedly scamming investors worldwide out of billions of dollars.
Ignatova is the first cryptocurrency criminal to be on the FBI’s Most Wanted List and the eleventh woman to do so in the list’s 72-year history. She operated a pyramid-scheme scam using the Bulgarian cryptocurrency company OneCoin Ltd. It is estimated that the fraud cost its victims more than $4 billion.
In 2014, Ignatova released OneCoin with the bold claim that it would replace Bitcoin. Ignatova is accused of making misleading claims about the company, including that OneCoin had a private blockchain, in order to market the cryptocurrency.
Other virtual currencies, on the other hand, have a decentralized and public blockchain. Investors in this case were merely encouraged to put their faith in OneCoin, according to FBI Special Agent Ronald Shimko, who is looking into the matter out of the FBI’s New York Field Office.
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The blockchain was “private” since OneCoin actually lacked a blockchain, which is a crucial part of cryptocurrency systems.
Ignatova was able to entice crowds with her stage presence and false claims about the advantages of OneCoin because this information was kept a secret. In 2016, Ignatova made an on-stage appearance at England’s Wembley Arena wearing a ballgown and diamond stud earrings to tell fans that OneCoin was headed toward being the biggest cryptocurrency in the world.
Watch the video below:
In order to buy crypto packages, victims would send investment funds to their OneCoin accounts, but they never received any returns in cash. Investors quickly grew concerned and planned a meeting with Ignatova at a conference of European OneCoin promoters in Lisbon, Portugal, in October 2017. She never showed up.
According to the FBI, Ignatova flew on October 25, 2017, from Sofia, Bulgaria to Athens, Greece, and may have continued her travel elsewhere. A federal warrant for her arrest had been issued by the United States District Court of New York about two weeks prior. Ignatova was charged with five counts (pdf below), including wire fraud and securities fraud, in February 2018.
Ignatova has appeared on two “Most Wanted” lists since running away five years ago. The “Cryptoqueen” was placed on Europe’s Most Wanted Fugitives List in May 2022 in addition to the FBI’s Most Wanted List. While the EU’s law enforcement agency, Europol, is offering €5,000 for information on her whereabouts, the FBI is offering up to $100,000.
The Missing Cryptoqueen podcast’s creator, journalist Jamie Bartlett, has been looking for Ignatova since 2019. He hopes Ignatova is apprehended soon because he thinks it will set a good example for people who want to engage in cryptocurrency fraud. He said “her arrest and conviction is the one thing that might actually stop crypto scams because it would send out a powerful warning to people to be wary.”
Read the charges given below: