The FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) announced Thursday the addition of Ruja Ignatova to its list of ten most wanted fugitives over her alleged leadership of a massive fraud scheme that affected millions of investors worldwide. The agency is also offering a reward of up to $100,000 for information leading to her arrest.
Ruja Ignatova, also known as the “Cryptoqueen”, believed to be in her 40s, was the founder of OneCoin Ltd., a Bulgaria-based company that marketed an alleged cryptocurrency called OneCoin, launched in 2014.
In order to carry out the large scale fraud scheme, Ignatova allegedly made false statements and statements to individuals requesting investments in OneCoin. To buy OneCoin packs, she apparently instructed victims to transfer investment funds to OneCoin accounts, causing them to send wire transfers representing these investments.
“This network was created to become and fuel the growth of OneCoin,” she said at a 2016 London event shared by the FBI. “I strongly believe that this will be the number one cryptocurrency worldwide.” She also claimed, “OneCoin is easy to use, OneCoin is for everyone.”
Ignatova and others are said to have scammed more than $4 billion (£3.2 billion) from investors around the world in three years before disappearing in October 2017. On October 12, 2017, Ignatova was indicted 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 replacement indictment was issued accusing her of one count each of conspiracy to commit fraud; Cable 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 of 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 telefraud in a deal with US authorities.
“There are so many victims around the world who have been financially devastated by this,” said Special Agent Ronald Shimko, who is investigating the case from the FBI’s field office in New York. “We want to bring her to justice.”
Speaking English, German and Bulgarian, Ignatova is believed to be traveling with armed guards and/or staff members holding a false German passport to the United Arab Emirates, Bulgaria, Germany, Russia, Greece and/or Eastern Europe. She has brown eyes and dark hair, although researchers warn that she may have had plastic surgery or changed her appearance in some other way.
Ignatova is only the eleventh woman to be added to the FBI’s most wanted list in its 72-year history. The FBI has asked anyone with information about her whereabouts to contact the local FBI office or nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.