On Thursday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) added the name of Dr. Ruja Ignatova, the infamous founder of OneCoin, to its list of Ten Most Wanted Fugitives. Not only has it added the self-proclaimed ‘Cryptoqueen’ to the list, but the FBI has also added a reward of $100,000 reward for anyone who can provide information that leads to her arrest.
The OneCoin disaster
In 2014, the infamous cryptocurrency called OneCoin was introduced and over three years, it allegedly defrauded people before vanishing with $4 billion in investor funds. Ignatova is said to be the founder of the cryptocurrency and was added to the most wanted list in Europe last month by Europol.
Investigators have disclosed that there was no blockchain associated with the Bulgarian project for securing transactions and they essentially minted tokens out of thin air. In contrast, the world’s leading cryptocurrency i.e. Bitcoin, is powered by a public ledger known as a blockchain, and a global network of miners maintains and secures it.
A press conference was conducted on Thursday by the Southern District of New York for announcing the addition of the OneCoin founder to the FBI’s most-wanted list.
The FBI is hopeful
The assistant director of the FBI, who heads the New York office of the agency, Mike Driscoll said that they believed they would eventually find her. The U.S. attorney for New York’s Southern District, Damian Williams called the cryptoqueen an international fugitive who had committed worldwide fraud.
Williams also stated that Ignatova’s name had now been added to the list that includes murderers, cartel leaders and terrorists. Her name has been in the criminal justice system for more than five years. The first indictment had come in October of 2017 by a grand jury and an arrest warrant had subsequently been issued in her name in New York.
A superseding indictment had been issued in February next year, in which she had been charged with one count of wire fraud, conspiracy to conduct wire fraud, one count of securities fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. A sentence of 20 years is applicable for each charge.
The Cryptoqueen’s whereabouts
In a press release, the FBI said that Ignatova had first traveled on October 25th, 2017 to Greece from Bulgaria. It is possible that she could have traveled further from there. The FBI said that she could use a German passport for traveling to Russia, Germany, Bulgaria, the United Arab Emirates, Eastern Europe, or Greece.
Konstantin, brother to Ignatov who was also part of OneCoin’s leadership, had been arrested in 2019. In the same year, he pled guilty to several felonies. The large-scale fraud has been likened to a pyramid scheme. Ignatova first solicited investments by making false statements. Investors made payment to OneCoin’s accounts for buying the fake token.
Investors did not have any way of tracing their money and they could not use the cryptocurrency for buying anything. In fact, only its co-conspirators and founders could benefit from the token, which Ignatova did.