FBI Adds “Cryptoqueen” to “Top Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List” for Fraud

The seal of the Federal Bureau of Investigation can be seen at FBI headquarters.

Yuri Gripas | Reuters

WASHINGTON – The FBI on Thursday arrested Dr. Ruja Ignatova, the self-proclaimed “cryptoqueen,” was added to his top ten most wanted fugitives list and is offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to her arrest.

Ignatova, the founder of a cryptocurrency called OneCoin that launched in 2014, allegedly defrauded investors out of more than $4 billion in three years before disappearing. Europol has put her on Europe’s most wanted list Last month.

Investigators say the Bulgaria-based project had no blockchain backing of transactions and coins were essentially minted out of thin air. In contrast, Bitcoin is backed by a global network of miners who maintain a public ledger, or blockchain.

The Southern Borough of New York held one press conference on Thursday morning to announce the addition of Ignatova to the list of top fugitives.

Mike Driscoll, the FBI’s deputy director for the New York bureau, said he was “confident” they would eventually find her. and Damian Williams, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, called Ignatova “an international fugitive who allegedly directed a worldwide fraud.”

Williams also noted that Ignatova now “sits side by side on the top ten list with cartel leaders, assassins and terrorists.”

Ignatova has been in the criminal justice system for at least half a decade. She was indicted by a federal grand jury in October 2017, and the Southern District of New York subsequently issued an arrest warrant.

A substitute indictment was issued in February 2018, charging Ignatova with one charge each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to commit securities fraud, and securities fraud. Each charge carries a prison sentence of up to 20 years.

As for Ignatova’s whereabouts, the FBI stated in a press release that the OneCoin founder had traveled from Bulgaria to Greece on October 25, 2017, although she could have traveled further from there.

“She can travel to the United Arab Emirates, Bulgaria, Germany, Russia, Greece and/or Eastern Europe on a German passport,” the FBI said.

Ignatov’s brother Konstantin, who also held an executive role at OneCoin, was arrested in 2019 and subsequently pleaded guilty to multiple crimes that same year.

Investigators describe the large-scale fraud as similar to an international Ponzi scheme. Ignatova allegedly provided false information to solicit investments. Victims would then send cash to OneCoin accounts to purchase the coin.

In 2019, then-FBI Deputy Director William Sweeney Jr. said OneCoin “does not provide investors with a method of tracing their money and it cannot be used to make purchases. In fact, the only ones who could benefit from its existence were its founders and co-conspirators.”

At the peak of OneCoin’s popularity in 2016, Ignatova took the stage in a ball gown at England’s Wembley Arena to promote a coin that she said would eclipse Bitcoin. Igantova was also known for throwing lavish parties in cities around the world.

The FBI is asking anyone with information about her whereabouts to contact the FBI at tips.fbi.gov.

CLOCK: Bitwise’s Matt Hougan explains what crypto investors should be aware of

https://www.cnbc.com/2022/06/30/fbi-adds-cryptoqueen-to-ten-most-wanted-fugitives-list-for-fraud.html FBI Adds “Cryptoqueen” to “Top Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List” for Fraud

Chrissy Callahan

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