This week, the FBI added OneCoin leader Ruja Ignatova aka ‘The Missing Cryptoqueen,’ to its Top 10 Most Wanted list. The Bureau is offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to her arrest.
Last month, CoinGeek reported that the net was closing in on Ignatova as Europol added her to its most-wanted list.
Journalist Jamie Bartlett, who wrote the book ‘The Missing Cryptoqueen’ and headed up a popular podcast series by the same name, described the FBI’s move as “probably the biggest development in the case since Dr. Ruja disappeared in October 2017.”
The #FBI has named Ruja Ignatova to its Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List. She is wanted for her alleged participation in a large-scale fraud scheme involving cryptocurrency. Up to $100,000 reward offered for info leading to her arrest: https://t.co/oU7EKYqaCi pic.twitter.com/tJ8co8aqx0
— FBI Most Wanted (@FBIMostWanted) June 30, 2022
Are authorities close to catching Ignatova? Why add her to the Most Wanted list now?
Ignatova disappeared in October 2017, the same month a federal grand jury indicted her, and the United States District Court, Southern District of New York, issued a warrant for her arrest.
It’s unclear what has caused the sudden increase in interest almost five years after her disappearance, but there have been persistent indications that time may be running out for the so-called ‘Cryptoqueen.’
On its website, the FBI claimed that Ignatova might travel on a German passport in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bulgaria, Germany, Russia, and other locations in Eastern Europe. At a press conference on June 30, an FBI speaker mentioned the UAE as a location of her possible whereabouts.
When a journalist from Inner City Press asked about comments made by former spy and OneCoin fixer Frank Schneider that Ignatova is probably dead, U.S. Attorney General Damian Williams responded that he couldn’t answer that question or any questions related to Schneider’s extradition.
Is OneCoin the biggest digital currency scam in history?
According to best estimates, Ignatova and her accomplices bilked investors out of more than $4 billion between 2014 and 2016. As of the time of writing, it remains the largest scam in the history of the digital currency industry, coming at almost double the size of BitConnect, which was estimated to have cost investors $2.4 billion.
While OneCoin remains the largest scam to date, recent events in the space mean it may have some challengers for the top spot soon. With the implosion of Three Arrows Capital, which analyst Tom Lee labeled a “Madoff-style Ponzi scheme,” and the unraveling of Terra’s UST algorithmic stablecoin, which South Korean authorities are actively investigating, OneCoin may soon lose its claim to being the largest scam in the history of the industry.
Whether Ruja Ignatova or any of the actors linked to other schemes ever sees the inside of a jail cell remains to be seen. Either way, those interested in speculating on digital currencies should stay extremely cautious. As CoinGeek’s Crypto Crime Cartel series shows, these waters are infested with sharks.
Follow CoinGeek’s Crypto Crime Cartel series, which delves into the stream of groups from BitMEX to Binance, Bitcoin.com, Blockstream, ShapeShift, Coinbase, Ripple, Ethereum, FTX and Tether—who have co-opted the digital asset revolution and turned the industry into a minefield for naïve (and even experienced) players in the market.
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