WASHINGTON — The FBI on Thursday added Dr. Ruja Ignatova, the self-proclaimed ‘Cryptoqueen,’ to its list of Ten Most Wanted fugitives, and is offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to her arrest.
Ignatova, the founder of a cryptocurrency called OneCoin that was launched in 2014, allegedly defrauded investors of more than $4 billion over three years, before disappearing.
Investigators say the Bulgarian-based project had no blockchain securing transactions and coins were essentially minted out of thin air. Bitcoin, by contrast, is secured by a global network of miners who maintain a public ledger, or blockchain.
The Southern District of New York held a press conference on Thursday morning to announce the addition of Ignatova to its top fugitives list.
Ignatova has been in the criminal system for at least a half-decade. She was indicted by a federal grand jury in October 2017, and the Southern District of New York subsequently issued an arrest warrant.
In February 2018, a superseding indictment was issued, charging Ignatova with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to commit securities fraud and securities fraud.
As for Ignatova’s whereabouts, the FBI noted in a press release that the OneCoin founder traveled from Bulgaria to Greece on Oct. 25, 2017, though she could have continued on from there.
“She may travel on a German passport to the United Arab Emirates, Bulgaria, Germany, Russia, Greece and/or Eastern Europe,” the FBI said.
Investigators describe the large-scale fraud as similar to a ponzi scheme. Ignatova allegedly made false statements to solicit investments. Victims would then send cash to OneCoin accounts in order to buy the coin.
At the height of OneCoin’s popularity in 2016, Ignatova took the stage at England’s Wembley Arena in a ballgown to tout a coin that she said would eclipse bitcoin. Igantova was also known for throwing lavish parties in cities around the world.
The FBI asks that anyone with information about her whereabouts contact the bureau at tips.fbi.gov.