Ruja Ignatova, also known as the “missing Cryptoqueen”, is now one of the FBI’s top ten most wanted fugitives. She has been missing since 2017 when US officials signed an arrest warrant against her. The FBI is offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to Ignatova’s capture, said Michael Driscoll, the FBI’s assistant director-in-charge in New York.
Ignatova, a Bulgarian, believed to be in her 40s, is wanted for her alleged role in running a cryptocurrency scam known as OneCoin. In 2014, OneCoin, a self-described cryptocurrency, began offering buyers commission if they sold the currency to more people and defrauded victims out of more than $4bn (£3.2bn).
FBI claims that OneCoin was worthless and was never safeguarded by the blockchain technology used by other cryptocurrencies.
Damian Williams, the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan said that Ruja timed her scheme perfectly, capitalizing on the frenzied speculation of the early days of cryptocurrency and now OneCoin is one of the largest Ponzi schemes in history.
Ignatova disappeared in late 2017 after bugging an apartment belonging to her American boyfriend and learning he was cooperating with an FBI probe into OneCoin, Williams said. She boarded a flight from Bulgaria to Greece and has not been seen since he said.
Jamie Bartlett, who has been investigating the case for years, said one of the reasons it had been so difficult to track down Ruja Ignatova is that she disappeared with at least $500m (£411m), helping her to hide from the law.
“We also believe she has high-quality fake identity documents and has changed her appearance,” he added, as well as raising the possibility that she may no longer even be alive.
Ignatova was charged alongside Mark Scott, a former corporate lawyer who prosecutors said laundered around $400 million for OneCoin. Scott was found guilty of conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to commit bank fraud following a three-week trial in Manhattan federal court.