In June 2016, when cryptocurrency was just becoming a buzzword and investors were rushing to make money, Ruja Ignatova was all over the place. She promoted her company, OneCoin, as a lucrative competitor to Bitcoin in the expanding cryptocurrency market and gave herself the moniker “Cryptoqueen.”
As investors cheered and whistled, she stated, “In two years, nobody will speak about Bitcoin anymore.”
Ignatova vanished after boarding a plane in Sofia, Bulgaria, sixteen months later. Since then, no one has seen her. In point of fact, OneCoin is said to have promised investors a return of five to ten times.
According to experts, Ignatova’s OneCoin was a pyramid scheme that defrauded investors worldwide and in the United States of America of more than $4 billion. OneCoin is one of the largest ever international fraud schemes, according to federal prosecutors.
The only woman currently on the FBI’s list of the ten most wanted fugitives is Ruja Ignatova. Along with alleged gang leaders and murderers, she is now one of the FBI’s ten most wanted fugitives. She is currently the only woman on that list. She is one of only 11 women on the FBI’s list of 529 fugitives since it began in 1950.
In a statement issued earlier this month, New York’s top prosecutor, US Attorney Damian Williams, stated that Ignatova and her partners “conned unsuspecting victims out of billions of dollars, claiming that OneCoin would be the ‘Bitcoin killer.'”
The lawyer said that OneCoins were completely worthless and that their lies were made to get ordinary people around the world to part with their hard-earned money.
Her picture has been plastered all over major news outlets worldwide and on the FBI website ever since Ignatova vanished in October 2017. She is also one of Europe’s most wanted fugitives.
At the bottom of her FBI wanted poster is a note:
“Ignatova is believed to travel with armed guards and/or associates. Ignatova may have had plastic surgery or otherwise altered her appearance.”
According to the FBI, it selects fugitives for the list based on their potential danger and the length of their criminal records. To get the most out of the program’s national exposure, it also favors unknown fugitives.
Ruja Ignatova: Who Is She?
Interestingly, Ignatova wanted to be rich from a young age. Ruja Ignatova, 42, is a German citizen who was born in Bulgaria to an engineer father and a teacher mother.
Bartlett wrote that Ignatova’s family moved to Germany when she was a child. There, she excelled academically and spent her free time studying and playing chess. She was described as aloof, driven, and smart by classmates.
A scholarship allowed Ignatova to attend a university in Konstanz, Germany, where she met and married a fellow law student. Bartlett wrote that she maintained that she did not want children because they would prevent her from acquiring wealth.
She also stated to people that she aspired to be a millionaire by the age of 30.
Ignatova worked as a consultant for McKinsey & Company in Sofia after graduating from Oxford University with a degree in European law.
Bartlett wrote that clients trusted her and related to her rise from humble beginnings and intense desire for wealth. Her proficiency in Russian, German, English, and Bulgarian additionally assisted.
Ignatova cared a lot about how she looked. She often wore an evening gown, wore bright red lipstick, and had diamonds dangling from her ears. In fact, she was obsessed with fashion and appearance.
In connection with his sister’s business, Konstantin Ignatov pleaded guilty to fraud and charges related to it. February is when he is expected to be sentenced.
OneCoin was first pitched to investors in Europe, New York, and around the world in 2014 by Ignatova and Greenwood, her co-founder. According to a federal indictment, they held online webinars and conferences where they encouraged potential investors to deposit funds in an account that would enable the purchase of OneCoin packages.
Federal prosecutors claimed that OneCoin functioned as a multilevel marketing network in which investors received commissions for referring others to purchase cryptocurrency bundles. From “starter” to “tycoon trader,” the packages were designed for a variety of income levels.
According to court documents, Ignatova and her partners promised buyers a fivefold or even tenfold return on their investment.
Karl Sebastian Greenwood, co-founder of OneCoin, as seen in 2016. He later entered a guilty plea to wire fraud, wire fraud conspiracy, and money laundering conspiracy.
According to records obtained during their investigation, investors gave OneCoin more than $4 billion between the fourth quarter of 2014 and the fourth quarter of 2016. According to court documents, investors in the United States contributed roughly $50 million.
Williams, Manhattan’s top federal prosecutor, stated, “She timed her scheme perfectly, capitalizing on the frenzied speculation of the early days of cryptocurrency.”
According to federal investigators, OneCoins were not mined like other cryptocurrencies. According to court documents, OneCoin was created by software rather than armies of powerful servers.
Prosecutors claimed that OneCoin’s value was simply manipulated privately by OneCoin itself rather than being determined by market supply and demand like other cryptocurrencies.
The facade began to fall apart in 2016, according to court documents, when investors had difficulty selling their OneCoins to recoup their initial investments.
On the internet, word began to spread that the company was a con. The media began asking questions. Federal investigators from the US and around the world got involved.
Ignatova’s marriage has not been clarified. However, according to the FBI, she discovered that her American boyfriend was cooperating with a federal investigation into the practices of her company when she bugged his apartment.
Ignatova was indicted by the US Department of Justice in October 2017 on one count each of wire fraud, securities fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and wire fraud, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Additionally, she was accused of one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. A warrant for her arrest was issued by a federal judge in New York.
According to court documents, she boarded a commercial flight from Sofia, Bulgaria, to Athens, Greece, less than two weeks later, on October 25, 2017. After that, she vanished, leaving her business partners to bear the financial burden of the failing business.
She may have traveled from Athens to the United Arab Emirates, Germany, Russia, Eastern Europe, or even back to Bulgaria on a German passport, according to the FBI. A $100,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to her arrest.
Ruja Ignatova was reported to have left with a significant sum of money. Not so fortunate were her partners. In July 2018, Greenwood was taken into custody at his home in Koh Samui, Thailand, and extradited to the United States. In December, he entered a guilty plea to wire fraud, wire fraud conspiracy, and money laundering conspiracy. When he is sentenced in April, he is currently in jail and faces 20 years in prison for each of the three counts.
Konstantin Ignatov, Ignatova’s brother, was detained at Los Angeles International Airport in March 2019. Bartlett wrote that he had traveled to the United States on business and was about to board his return flight to Bulgaria when he was handcuffed and taken to an interrogation room, where five large men in suits asked him a lot of questions about his missing sister.
Ignatov is scheduled to be sentenced in February on charges of wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering, and fraud.