FBI adds OneCoin founder Ruja Ignatova to list of most wanted fugitives

FBI adds OneCoin founder Ruja Ignatova to list of most wanted fugitives
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At Wembley Arena in London, Alicia Keys’ song “Girl on Fire” flashed on stage as speakers sang, pyrotechnics exploded, and even flames turned into cacophonies. It was then that Ruja Ignatova, known by the nickname “Cryptocurrency”, appeared on stage in a long, bright red dress and promised that her cryptocurrency OneCoin would take over the world and become a “bitcoin killer”.

The audience of the 2016 event went wild. Against the backdrop of the cryptocurrency boom, the status of OneCoin was rising in the United States and around the world. However, the company’s meteoric rise will finally end quickly.

Only a year later, Ignatova disappeared without a trace, and since then, European and US officials have tried to capture her. The FBI added Ignatova to its list on Thursday The 10 most wanted fugitives – fame usually given to suspicious cartel leaders, terrorists and murderers. Ignatova is accused of leading a pyramid scheme. deceived investors more than $ 4 billionone of the greatest in history.

“Today’s announcement is a promise to redouble our efforts to arrest Ignatova, seek justice for her victims and bring her to justice for her crimes,” Damian Williams, the US attorney for New York’s Southern District, told a news conference on Thursday. .

Before jumping on a wanted poster, Ignatova, a German national with Bulgarian connections, had a “sterling resume” that showed her law degree at Oxford University and her work as a consultant at McKinsey & Company, Williams said. The only woman on the list of most wanted fugitives is Ignatova, who came to join a group of alleged killers and gang leaders in a 2014 story about the birth of OneCoin.

The brilliant idea presented to investors and promoted among marketing materials was “a revolutionary currency for everyone to make payments everywhere. [to] everyone, on a global scale, ”Ignatova joked at Wembley Arena. OneCoin has promised a cryptocurrency that, according to the criminal complaint, will surpass any other and make early users see that their investments bring “five or ten times” returns.

But the story, According to court documents, it is not one of the exaggerated promises that its founders failed to fulfill – Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos. Instead, investigators claim that OneCoin should have been a Ponzi scheme from the start.

The six-point cryptocurrency is a classic Ponzi scheme

Although it was supposed to be a form of cryptocurrency, OneCoin did not actually have a payment system or blockchain model. An important technology that supports cryptocurrencies – thus making OneCoin tokens essentially worthless. Ignatova and the company’s founders are accused of being so knowledgeable. (In a statement To the BBC In 2019, OneCoin denied any wrongdoing.)

According to internal emails obtained by investigators, the purpose of creating OneCoin was to create a “garbage coin” that would combine the madness surrounding cryptocurrency with multi-level marketing.

According to federal investigators, OneCoin relied on its users to attract more participants by offering multiple rewards, commissions and “trading packages” at various price points. Finally, the network of investors covered more than a hundred countries. Prosecutor Williams said Thursday that more than 3 million people are believed to have been deceived.

Ignatova “addressed the humanity of the people and promised that OneCoin would change the lives of people who do not have a bank,” Williams said. “And he made the most of the crazy speculations in the early days of cryptocurrency, adapting his scheme to the times.”

Meet the Wall Street crocodile accused of laundering billions of dollars in cryptocurrency

According to court documents, Ignatova wrote to the co-founder in 2014 that the plan was to “take the money and run away and blame someone else for it.”

Cracks around OneCoin began to appear in 2016, Insider reported, Sweden, Latvia, Norway, Croatia, Italy, and Bulgaria – where OneCoin is headquartered – began adding OneCoin to lists warning of fraudulent transactions. Soon the litigation began.

Ignatova began to fear that law enforcement would reach her, and even broke into her American boyfriend’s apartment after suspecting him, Williams said. In the end, the notes warned him that he was collaborating with the FBI and hastened his escape plan.

“He immediately boarded a plane flying from Bulgaria to Greece with a security guard. Not a piece of luggage. The guard returned, but did not return to Ignatov. He has not been seen or heard from since, “said Williams.

Although she disappeared in October 2017, Ignatova was indicted that month by a federal grand jury and an arrest warrant was issued for her. He is charged with money laundering, money laundering, conspiracy to launder money, securities fraud and conspiracy to commit securities fraud. Each of the first four articles carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, and the last of up to five years.

Crypto scams are on the rise, spending more than $ 1 billion over the past year

The fate of OneCoin finally became the fate of its founder. The company went bankrupt after Ignatova’s brother, Konstantin Ignatova, was arrested by the FBI in 2019. He pleaded guilty to a number of serious crimes and agreed to cooperate with the authorities. new identity according to court documents.

The FBI is now appealing to the public to help with the investigation and is offering a $ 100,000 reward for information leading to Ignatova’s arrest.

At an event in London in 2016, he said, “I’ve been called a lot, and probably the best thing the press called me … was a ‘bitcoin killer.’

He can now add the “most wanted fugitive” to the list.

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