The FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) on Thursday announced the addition of Ruja Ignatova to its Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list for her alleged leadership of a massive fraud scheme that affected millions of investors worldwide. The bureau is also offering a reward of up to $100,000 for information leading to her arrest.
Ruja Ignatova, also known as the “Cryptoqueen”, who is believed to be in her 40s, was the founder of OneCoin Ltd., a Bulgaria-based company that marketed a purported cryptocurrency called OneCoin launched in 2014.
In order to execute the large-scale fraud scheme, Ignatova allegedly made false statements and representations to individuals in order to solicit investments in OneCoin. In order to purchase OneCoin packages, she apparently instructed victims to transmit investment funds to OneCoin accounts, causing them to send wire transfers representing these investments.
“This network was created to become and to fuel the growth of OneCoin,” she said at a 2016 London event that was shared by the FBI. “Which I strongly believe will be the number one cryptocurrency worldwide.” She also claimed, “OneCoin is easy to use, OneCoin is for everyone.”
Ignatova and others are alleged to have defrauded more than $4 billion (£3.2bn) over three years from investors all over the world before disappearing in October 2017. On October 12, 2017, Ignatova was charged in the United States District Court, Southern District of New York, and a federal warrant was issued for her arrest.
Further, on February 6, 2018, a superseding indictment was issued charging her with one count each of Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud; Wire Fraud; Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering; Conspiracy to Commit Securities Fraud; and Securities Fraud. Each count carries a sentence of up to 20 years.
“On October 25, 2017, Ignatova traveled from Sofia, Bulgaria, to Athens, Greece, and may have traveled elsewhere after that,” the FBI said about her whereabouts.
Ignatova has been missing since October 25, 2017, and has not been seen since. However, her brother Konstantin Ignatov was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport in March 2019 and later pleaded guilty to wire fraud in a deal with U.S. authorities.
“There are so many victims all over the world who were financially devastated by this,” said Special Agent Ronald Shimko, who is investigating the case out of the FBI’s New York field office. “We want to bring her to justice.”
Ignatova speaks English, German and Bulgarian and is believed to travel with armed guards and/or associates using a fake German passport to the United Arab Emirates, Bulgaria, Germany, Russia, Greece and/or Eastern Europe. She has brown eyes and dark hair, though investigators caution she may have had plastic surgery or otherwise altered her appearance.
Ignatova is only the 11th woman to be added to the FBI’s most-wanted list in its 72-year history. The FBI has requested whoever has information about her whereabouts contact the local FBI office or the nearest American Embassy or Consulate.