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Ruja Ignatova, dubbed the ‘Cryptoqueen’, has been named a most-wanted fugitive by the FBI.
Ignatova was added to the bureau’s 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list for allegedly defrauding investors out of more than $4 billion through a cryptocurrency company she co-founded in 2014.
Ignatova, 42, is the only woman to have ever made it onto the FBI's top 10 most wanted list, and just the 11th woman to have featured on the list at all in its 72-year history.
She helped found OneCoin eight years ago and earlier this year was placed on Europol’s most-wanted list.
According to ABC, FBI Assistant Director Michael Driscoll said: "It's an important tool for us, the top 10 list. We think the public is in the best position to help."
Back in 2014, Ignatova, who is a Bulgarian lawyer, claimed she had invented a cryptocurrency that could rival Bitcoin.
The FBI alleges that Ignatova made false statements while promoting OneCoin and soliciting investments.
Laying out a multi-level marketing strategy, the FBI said Ignatova claimed that OneCoin used a private blockchain, meaning its value was determined by the company as opposed to market demand, as is the case when currencies have public blockchains.
According to the FBI, Ignatova – who the bureau says capitalised on the ‘buzz’ around cryptocurrencies – was able to persuade investors to give her billions of dollars.
A federal warrant was issued for her arrest in 2017 and she subsequently disappeared, something the FBI said was the result of a tip-off she’d received.
In October 2017, Ignatova travelled from Sofia, Bulgaria, to Athens, Greece. She hasn’t been seen since, with Driscoll noting: "She's got a lot of money and she hit the road pretty quick.”
In February 2018, Ignatova was indicted on one count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to commit securities fraud, and securities fraud.
The FBI is now offering up to $100,000 for information leading to Ignatova’s arrest, adding that she has been known to travel across Eastern Europe and may have even altered her appearance with plastic surgery.
Ignatova's brother, Konstantin Ignatov, has also been charged in connection with OneCoin.
He ran OneCoin after his sister’s disappearance and in March 2019 was arrested on a wire fraud conspiracy charge. He is currently awaiting his sentence after pleading guilty.
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