Dr Ruja Ignatova, the self-styled ‘cryptoqueen’, who allegedly led one of many world’s largest cryptocurrency scams, is now on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s 10 Most Needed Fugitives checklist, the probe company introduced on Thursday (June 30).
Investigators have accused the 42-year-old girl, who was born in Bulgaria, of defrauding victims of greater than $4 billion (€3.83 billion) by the OneCoin cryptocurrency firm that she based in 2014
The FBI is providing a $100,000 reward for any info resulting in the arrest of Ignatova, who has been lacking since 2017, when US officers first issued a warrant for her arrest.
She is simply the eleventh girl to be included within the FBI’s Ten Most Needed Fugitive Listing in its 72 yr historical past, as reported by Forbes.
‘Outdated rip-off with a digital twist’
Earlier than main some of the infamous cryptocurrency scams, Ruja Ignatova had an illustrious resume, with a regulation diploma from Oxford and a stint with McKinsey.
In 2014, she established OneCoin Ltd, and the ‘cryptoqueen’ started to market her foreign money as a “bitcoin killer.” In keeping with investigators, Ignatova made false representations to obtain enormous quantities of funds from traders, lots of whom didn’t totally perceive the way to spend money on cryptocurrency. The corporate operated all over the world, and had greater than 3 million traders from over 100 international locations. Information that had been obtained through the investigation reveal that between the fourth quarter of 2014 and third quarter of 2016 alone, OneCoin generated a whopping €3.353 billion in gross sales income and earned “earnings” of €2.232 billion.
“She timed her scheme completely, capitalizing on the frenzied hypothesis of the early days of cryptocurrency,” mentioned Damian Williams, the highest federal prosecutor from Manhattan.
Ignatova promised traders huge returns at minimal danger and, in response to prosecutors, provided consumers a fee, in the event that they offered OneCoin to extra folks, in order to lure much more folks into shopping for her fraudulent foreign money.
IRS Particular Agent in Cost, John R. Tafur referred to as it “an previous rip-off with a digital twist” — which was made for the only real goal of defrauding traders.
The “exit technique” for OneCoin was to “take the cash and run and blame another person,” Ignatova mentioned to her co-founder in an e mail unearthed through the investigation.
Investigators allege that it was basically a Ponzi scheme from the very begin, which was falsely portrayed as a cryptocurrency. Ponzi schemes are a form of fraud the place one occasion guarantees excessive returns on funding with little to no danger. Early traders are repaid by buying new ones. As soon as there usually are not sufficient folks to safe new rounds of funding, the scheme collapses and traders lose their cash.
How the rip-off labored
The misrepresentations Ignatova and different OneCoin representatives are mentioned to have conned victims of the fraud by a collection of false and deceptive statements.
That they had promised that OneCoin cryptocurrency was ‘mined’ by mining servers and its worth was primarily based on market provide and demand, with the worth supposedly rising from €0.50 to round €29.95 per coin, as of January 2019. In actuality, OneCoin was not mined in any respect, and its worth was utterly decided internally by Ignatova and her co-conspirators.
OneCoin additionally claimed to have a blockchain (a digital ledger that identifies the foreign money and data its historic transactions) that’s utilized by different crypto currencies. Because it was not secured by any such know-how, the OneCoin tokens had been principally nugatory, as they might not be actively traded, couldn’t be used to purchase something and traders had no manner of tracing their cash.
“OneCoin claimed to have a non-public blockchain,” mentioned FBI Particular Agent Ronald Shimko in a press release reported by AFP.
“That is in distinction to different digital currencies, which have a decentralized and public blockchain. On this case, traders had been simply requested to belief OneCoin,” he mentioned.
Ignatov additionally repeatedly advised OneCoin members that an “initial public offering” of the corporate would happen on numerous dates between 2018 and 2019, to create pleasure and obtain much more funding from the victims. Nonetheless, the FBI stories that this providing was constantly postponed and it by no means happened.
The ‘cryptoqueen’ disappeared into skinny air in 2017, when investigating our bodies from internationally started to seek for her.
Ignatova had bugged her boyfriend’s house after rising suspicious of him. When she discovered that he was cooperating with an FBI probe into OneCoin, she instantly boarded a flight from Bulgaria to Greece and has not been seen since.
She speaks English, German and Bulgarian and is likely to be utilizing a pretend passport. She has brown eyes and darkish hair, nonetheless investigators declare that she may need modified her look, in response to the New York Put up.
Ignatova has since been charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit cash laundering, securities fraud and conspiracy to commit securities fraud, by the US authorities.
In keeping with The Washington Put up, the primary 4 counts every carry a sentence of as much as 20 years in jail, whereas the final is punishable by as much as 5 years in jail.
After 2017, her brother Konstantin Ignatov took over the corporate. Nonetheless, he was arrested in Los Angeles by the FBI in 2019 for wire fraud. After pleading responsible to a collection of felonies, he entered right into a plea deal to cooperate with US authorities, in response to The Washington Put up.
Together with him, US company lawyer Mark Scott was additionally convicted in 2019 for laundering $400 million for OneCoin.