Ruja Ignatova, a Bulgarian woman dubbed the "cryptoqueen," has been added to the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list after allegedly defrauding billions from investors.
The Bureau says Ignatova, 42, lead a massive fraud scheme that affected millions of investors worldwide.
Ignatova and her partner founded the company OneCoin in Bulgaria around 2014, according to the FBI. The company marketed a new cryptocurrency that would be the "Bitcoin killer." The FBI Says Ignatova made numerous false statements and representations about OneCoin to lure investors, who were then encouraged to sell additional packages through a multi-level marketing strategy.
The FBI says Ignatova used many of the buzzwords associated with the cryptocurrency community to generate excitement about OneCoin, despite it not being traditionally mined like bitcoin or other big-name cryptocurrencies. The value of OneCoin was also determined by the company rather than the marketplace.
Special Agent Ronald Shimko said OneCoin claimed to have a private blockchain, which is the underlying technology that makes cryptocurrencies work. By contrast, other virtual currencies have a blockchain that is decentralized and public.
Shimko estimated that Ignatova targeted people who did not fully understand how cryptocurrencies work and that she defrauded billions from victims all over the world.
"There are so many victims all over the world who were financially devastated by this," Shimko said in an FBI press release. "We want to bring her to justice."
Federal prosecutors charged Ignatova on October 12, 2017, and a warrant was issued for her arrest. Investigators believe she may have been tipped off that she was under investigation. She has not been seen since traveling from Sofia, Bulgaria, to Athens, Greece, on October 25, 2017.
A superseding indictment was issued on February 6, 2018, charging Ignatova with one count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to commit securities fraud, and securities fraud.
The FBI is offering a reward of up to $100,000 for information leading to her arrest.