cryptocurrency

‘Cryptoqueen’ added to FBI’s Top 10 Most Wanted list



The FBI has added a notorious cryptocurrency scammer known as “Cryptoqueen” to its list of the top 10 most-wanted fugitives, US officials announced.

Ruja Ignatova, who is a German citizen, is accused of defrauding investors out of $4 billion through a fake cryptocurrency called OneCoin, which the US law enforcement agency described as “a massive fraud scheme”.

Ms Ignatova, who is the only woman on the FBI’s most wanted list, has not been seen since 2017. In 2019, she was charged with eight counts, including wire fraud and securities fraud.

Prosecutors say the company offered commissions for members to entice others to buy a worthless cryptocurrency, essentially operating OneCoin as a pyramid scheme.

“She timed her scheme perfectly, capitalizing on the frenzied speculation of the early days of cryptocurrency,” said Damian Williams, the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan.

Mr Williams described OneCoin as “one of the largest Ponzi schemes in history.”

Ms Ignatova disappeared after bugging an apartment belonging to her American boyfriend and learning he was cooperating with an FBI probe into OneCoin, Mr Williams said. She boarded a flight from Bulgaria to Greece and has not been seen since, he added.

Michael Driscoll, the FBI’s assistant director-in-charge in New York, declined to comment on any leads as to where Ignatova might be. The bureau adds fugitives to its most-wanted list when it believes the public may be able to assist with tracking suspects down.

“She left with a tremendous amount of cash,” Mr Driscoll told reporters. “Money can buy a lot of friends, and I would imagine she’s taking advantage of that.”

Ms Ignatova was charged alongside Mark Scott, a former corporate lawyer who prosecutors said laundered around $400 million for OneCoin. Mr Scott was found guilty of conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to commit bank fraud following a three-week trial in Manhattan federal court.

The FBI offered a $100,000 reward for any information leading to her arrest, though warned that her appearance may have changed and any approach could be dangerous.

“Ignatova is believed to travel with armed guards and/or associates,” the agency said. “Ignatova may have had plastic surgery or otherwise altered her appearance.”

Additional reporting from agencies.



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