Ruja Ignatova is a German-Bulgarian businesswoman who is the founder of OneCoin, a fraudulent cryptocurrency scheme that is estimated to have bilked investors out of over $4 billion. She is currently on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, is the only woman on the list, and one of just 11 women to ever be added to it.
Ignatova was born in Bulgaria in 1980 and studied law at the University of Konstanz in Germany. After graduating, she worked as a consultant and started a number of small businesses. In 2014, she launched OneCoin, claiming that it was a new cryptocurrency that was more efficient and secure than Bitcoin.
OneCoin quickly became popular with investors, and Ignatova traveled the world promoting the scheme. She gave lavish presentations and promised investors huge returns from five to tenfold. Fantastical returns that seemed too good to be true and that’s because it was, OneCoin was never a real cryptocurrency. It had no underlying value and was essentially a Ponzi scheme, where new investors’ money was used to pay off old investors. However, with cryptocurrencies being the cool new kid on the block, and the wild success Bitcoin had demonstrated, skepticism was promptly brushed aside for the fear of missing out on the next life changing cryptocurrency.
In just 3 short years of peddling this scheme, Ignatova disappeared after boarding a flight from Bulgaria to Greece. She has not been seen since, and her whereabouts are unknown.
In July 2018, Karl Sebastian Greenwood, Ignatova’s former partner, was arrested at his home in Koh Samui, Thailand, and extradited to the US. Today, (September 18, 2023), he was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for his role in the scheme.
In 2019, her former boyfriend, Konstantin Ignatov, was arrested and charged with money laundering and fraud in connection with OneCoin. He pleaded guilty was sentenced to 5 years for his contributions.
Ignatova’s whereabouts remain unknown, but she is believed to be alive and hiding somewhere in Europe or the Middle East. She is one of the most wanted fugitives in the world, and the FBI is offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to her arrest.
The story of Ruja Ignatova, the “Cryptoqueen,” is a cautionary tale about the dangers of investing in unregulated cryptocurrencies. Investors should always do their research and be wary of any investment that promises high returns with little risk.