FBI puts $4 billion cryptocurrency scammer on most-wanted criminals list

Last Updated: 3 July 2022

Ruja Ignatova is the founder of cryptocurrency scam OneCoin and is known as the Cryptoqueen. She has been added to the FBI’s ten most wanted fugitives list for her role in defrauding investors for more than $4 billion.

The New York branch of the FBI is cooperating with US prosecutors and tax authorities on this. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is also offering a reward of up to $100,000 for information leading to her arrest.

What is Ignatova accused of?

Back in October 2017, she was indicted by the US national court and an arrest warrant was issued for Ignatova. There is a laundry list of charges, for example, she is wanted for:

  • conspiracy to commit wire fraud
  • bribery
  • conspiracy to commit money laundering
  • fraud involving security
  • Conspiracy to defraud the security system

According to investigators, Ignatova is suspected of being involved in a fraudulent operation of considerable magnitude. It is believed that Ignatova and others started swindling investors around 2014. The amount of money involved is estimated at billions of dollars.

What is OneCoin?

OneCoin was founded in 2014 by the Cryptoqueen in Bulgaria. OneCoin has the typical setup of multi-level marketing, but with cryptocurrency. Although OneCoin was not backed by a blockchain, or a decentralised network, the project promised to be the new bitcoin.

The promise was that members would receive a commission when recruiting new members. The members at the top of the pyramid received the most commissions. In most cases, investors saw no return on their investment.

Despite several warnings from the crypto industry and government agencies, OneCoin remained immensely popular. The token rose from 0.50 euros to 29.50 euros in 2019. Although the criminal proceedings had been ongoing for months, the website was only finally taken offline at the end of 2019.

Ignatova allegedly urged victims to move a lot of money into OneCoin accounts to buy OneCoin packs. Ignatova was at the top of the OneCoin pyramid until October 2017, then she resigned.

Wanted in America and Europe

In March 2019, Ignatova was arrested in the US for running a pyramid scheme. In May of the same year, the founder of OneCoin was sued by a former investor for an alleged fraud of several billion dollars. Since May 2022, the founder of OneCoin has been wanted in Europe by the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) for fraud and money laundering.

Looking for the queen

We just mentioned a sum of 4 billion dollars, but that could well be the tip of the iceberg (pyramid?). The US government estimated the value of the OneCoin scam at 4 billion dollars, but journalist Jamie Bartlett has discovered documents that show that OneCoin has raked in much more.

That 4 billion dollars seem to be per continent. The latest calculations show that OneCoin has earned more than the 19.4 billion dollars lost by victims of Bernie Madoff. If this is true, OneCoin is the biggest financial scam ever.

To find out the truth, Bartlett teamed up with the BBC to create an incredibly exciting podcast called ‘The Missing Cryptoqueen.’ You can listen to it for free via your favourite streaming service.

  • Steven Gray

    Steven Gray is an experienced cryptocurrency and blockchain journalist with over 7 years of reporting on the crypto industry across major publications. His proficiency in technical analysis provides him the skills to evaluate complex trading algorithms and AI systems. Steven leverages his extensive network of academics and finance professionals to incorporate expert opinions into his unbiased analyses.

    Known for his engaging yet objective writing style, Steven keeps readers informed without hype. His rare blend of crypto domain knowledge, trading acumen, impartiality, and communication skills makes him an ideal author for in-depth reviews of innovations across the cryptocurrency and financial technology sectors.

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