Amid the fog of ambiguity surrounding their whereabouts, OneCoin founder Ruja Ignatova’s name has resurfaced. Ignatova has been missing since 25 October 2017, when she boarded a Ryanair flight from Sofia to Athens and seemingly disappeared, after defrauding investors of US$4 billion.
On Thursday, the FBI added Ignatova to its list of Ten Most Wanted fugitives, offering a US$100,000 reward for information leading to her arrest.
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The self-proclaimed “Cryptoqueen” launched cryptocurrency OneCoin in 2014, but investigators say the project actually had no blockchain securing transactions. OneCoin “had no value” then-FBI assistant director-in-charge William Sweeney Jr. said in a 2019 statement, and its coin was minted out of thin air.
In a press conference in New York on Thursday, Mike Driscoll, the FBI’s assistant director in charge of the New York office, said they were “confident” she would be found eventually.
“[Ignatova] is an international fugitive who allegedly masterminded a worldwide fraud,” Williams said, adding that she now “sits side by side on the Top Ten list with cartel leaders, murderers, and terrorists.”
The Bulgarian Ponzi-scheme queen was indicted by a federal grand jury in October 2017 with the Southern District of New York subsequently issuing an arrest warrant.
Ignatova was charged 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 in February 2018, with each count carrying a sentence of up to 20 years.
In 2019, Ingatov’s brother Konstantin, who also served in a leadership role with OneCoin, pleaded guilty to multiple felonies and faces a 90-year sentence.
The timing of Ingatov’s inclusion in the FBI’s Most Wanted list serves as a stark reminder to crypto leaders that despite their decentralized web3 world, they are still accountable for their real-life crimes. Even internet vigilantes Anonymous recently released a video highlighting Do Kwon’s crimes, stating the LUNA founder is their next target. Nonetheless, whether the likes of Do Kwon or Su Zhu will be held accountable for their involvement in the crypto fallout and contagion is yet to be seen.