Dr Ruja Ignatova, the self-styled ‘cryptoqueen’, who allegedly led one of many world’s greatest cryptocurrency scams, is now on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s 10 Most Wished Fugitives record, the probe company introduced on Thursday (June 30).
Investigators have accused the 42-year-old lady, who was born in Bulgaria, of defrauding victims of greater than $4 billion (€3.83 billion) via the OneCoin cryptocurrency firm that she based in 2014
The FBI is providing a $100,000 reward for any data resulting in the arrest of Ignatova, who has been lacking since 2017, when US officers first issued a warrant for her arrest.
She is just the eleventh lady to be included within the FBI’s Ten Most Wished Fugitive Record in its 72 yr historical past, as reported by Forbes.
‘Outdated rip-off with a digital twist’
Earlier than main one of the crucial infamous cryptocurrency scams, Ruja Ignatova had an illustrious resume, with a legislation diploma from Oxford and a stint with McKinsey.
In 2014, she established OneCoin Ltd, and the ‘cryptoqueen’ started to market her forex as a “bitcoin killer.” Based on investigators, Ignatova made false representations to obtain enormous quantities of funds from traders, lots of whom didn’t totally perceive the right way to put money into cryptocurrency. The corporate operated world wide, and had greater than 3 million traders from over 100 nations. 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,” stated Damian Williams, the highest federal prosecutor from Manhattan.
Ignatova promised traders massive returns at minimal danger and, in accordance with prosecutors, provided patrons a fee, in the event that they offered OneCoin to extra individuals, in order to lure much more individuals into shopping for her fraudulent forex.
IRS Particular Agent in Cost, John R. Tafur known as it “an previous rip-off with a digital twist” — which was made for the only objective of defrauding traders.
The “exit technique” for OneCoin was to “take the cash and run and blame another person,” Ignatova stated 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 get together guarantees excessive returns on funding with little to no danger. Early traders are repaid by buying new ones. As soon as there are usually not sufficient individuals 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 stated to have conned victims of the fraud via a collection of false and deceptive statements.
They’d promised that OneCoin cryptocurrency was ‘mined’ via mining servers and its worth was based mostly 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 fully decided internally by Ignatova and her co-conspirators.
OneCoin additionally claimed to have a blockchain (a digital ledger that identifies the forex and information 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 mainly nugatory, as they may not be actively traded, couldn’t be used to purchase something and traders had no means of tracing their cash.
“OneCoin claimed to have a personal blockchain,” stated FBI Particular Agent Ronald Shimko in an announcement 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 stated.
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. Nevertheless, the FBI reviews that this providing was persistently postponed and it by no means befell.
The ‘cryptoqueen’ disappeared into skinny air in 2017, when investigating our bodies from the world over started to seek for her.
Ignatova had bugged her boyfriend’s residence 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 perhaps utilizing a pretend passport. She has brown eyes and darkish hair, nonetheless investigators declare that she might need modified her look, in accordance with the New York Publish.
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.
Based on The Washington Publish, 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. Nevertheless, 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 accordance with The Washington Publish.
Together with him, US company lawyer Mark Scott was additionally convicted in 2019 for laundering $400 million for OneCoin.