Dr. Ruja Ignatova, a self-proclaimed “crypto queen” who allegedly led one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency scams, is currently on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s list of 10 wanted fugitives.
Investigators have accused a 42-year-old woman born in Bulgaria of defrauding more than $ 4 billion (€ 3.83 billion) in casualties through the OneCoin cryptocurrency company founded in 2014.
The FBI is offering a $ 100,000 bounty for information leading to the arrest of Ignatova, which has been missing since 2017 when US authorities first issued an arrest warrant.
As Forbes reported, she is the 11th woman on the FBI’s list of 10 wanted fugitives in 72 years of history.
“Old scam with a virtual twist”
Prior to leading one of the most notorious cryptocurrency scams, Ruja Ignatova had a illustrious resume with a law degree in Oxford and a stint at McKinsey.
In 2014 she founded OneCoin Ltd and “cryptoqueen” started selling her currency as a “bitcoin killer”. According to investigators, Ignatova has made false statements to receive huge amounts of money from investors. Many investors did not fully understand how to invest in cryptocurrencies. The company operates worldwide and has more than 3 million investors from more than 100 countries. According to records obtained during the survey, in the fourth quarter of 2014 to the third quarter of 2016 alone, OneCoin generated sales of € 3,353 million and earned a “profit” of € 2,232 million. Did.
“She used the early enthusiastic speculation of cryptocurrencies to perfectly time her plans,” said Damian Williams, Manhattan’s Supreme Federal Prosecutor.
Ignatova promised investors to make big profits with minimal risk, and prosecutors say that if you sell OneCoin to more people, more people will buy her fraudulent currency. Provided a fee to the buyer to seduce.
IRS Special Agent John R. Taffle calls this an “old scam with a virtual twist.” It was created solely for the purpose of fraudulent investors.
Onecoin’s “exit strategy” was to “take money and blame someone else for running,” Ignatova told her co-founder in an email unearthed during the investigation. rice field.
Investigators claim that it was essentially a Ponzi scheme from the beginning and was mistakenly portrayed as a cryptocurrency. The Ponzi scheme is a type of fraud in which one party promises a high rate of return on investment with little or no risk. Early investors will be repaid by acquiring a new one. When there aren’t enough people to secure a new round of investment, the scheme collapses and investors lose money.
How fraud works
The misunderstandings of Ignatova and other OneCoin representatives are alleged to have put victims of fraud in a pinch through a series of false and misleading statements.
They promise that the OneCoin cryptocurrency will be “mined” through a mining server and its value will be based on market supply and demand, increasing from € 0.50 per coin to around € 29.95 as of January 2019. was doing. In fact, OneCoin wasn’t mined at all, and its value was determined entirely internally by Ignatova and her conspirators.
OneCoin also claimed to have a blockchain (a digital ledger that identifies currencies and records their historical transactions) used by other cryptocurrencies. Not protected by such techniques, OneCoin tokens were basically worthless, couldn’t trade aggressively, couldn’t buy anything, and investors had no way to track their money.
“OneCoin claimed to have a private blockchain,” said FBI Special Agent Ronald Simco in a statement reported by the AFP.
“This is in contrast to other cryptocurrencies with decentralized public blockchains. In this case, investors were only asked to trust OneCoin,” he said.
Ignatov also told Onecoin members “Initial public offeringThe “company” will be held on different days from 2018 to 2019 to generate excitement and receive more investment from the victims. However, the FBI reports that this offer has been consistently postponed and never made.
The “Crypto Queen” disappeared in the air in 2017 when law enforcement agencies around the world began looking for her.
Ignatova eavesdropped on his boyfriend’s apartment after suspicion of him. When she learned that he was cooperating with the FBI investigation into OneCoin, she immediately boarded a plane from Bulgaria to Greece and hasn’t been seen since.
She speaks English, German and Bulgarian and may be using a fake passport. According to the New York Post, she has her brown eyes and black hair, but investigators claim she may have changed her appearance.
Since then, Ignatova has been charged by the US Government with wire fraud, wire fraud, plots to commit money laundering, securities fraud, and plots to commit securities fraud.
According to The Washington Post, the first four counts are sentenced to up to 20 years in prison, and the last four counts are sentenced to up to five years in prison.
Since 2017, her brother Konstantin Ignatov has taken over the company. However, he was arrested by the FBI for wire fraud in Los Angeles in 2019. After pleading guilty to a series of felony charges, he signed a plea bargain with US authorities, according to the Washington Post.
Along with him, US corporate lawyer Mark Scott was also convicted in 2019 for washing $ 400 million for one coin.