1 July 2022
Bulgarian Ruja Ignatova, also known as the “missing crypt lady”, was placed on the FBI’s list of the ten most wanted criminals, the American federal police.
The criminal, believed to be in her 40s, is wanted for her alleged role in a cryptocurrency scam known as OneCoin.
Authorities accuse the fugitive of using the scheme to defraud victims of more than US$4 billion.
Ignatova has been missing since 2017, when US authorities issued an arrest warrant for her.
In 2014, the creators of the OneCoin cryptocurrency started offering commission to buyers of the coin who managed to sell it to more people.
But FBI agents say OneCoin had no value and never used the blockchain technology common to other cryptocurrencies.
Federal prosecutors allege that OneCoin was a pyramid scheme disguised as cryptocurrency.
“She got her scheme right on time, benefiting from the frenzied speculation of the cryptocurrency’s early days,” said Damian Williams, Manhattan’s top federal prosecutor.
The FBI puts fugitives on its most wanted list when it believes the public can help locate them.
An FBI announcement published on Thursday (30/6) offers a reward of US$ 100,000 (more than half a million reais) for any information that leads to Ignatova’s arrest. She was indicted in 2019 for eight crimes, including wire fraud and securities fraud.
She is the only woman on the FBI’s top ten most wanted list.
BBC journalist Jamie Bartlett, who has done a podcast on the story of Ignatova and OneCoin, said Thursday’s FBI announcement increases her chances of getting caught.
“This is probably the biggest news in the case since Ruja disappeared in October 2017,” he says.
Bartlett, who has been investigating the case for years, says one reason Ruja Ignatova is so difficult to track down is that she managed to get away with at least $500 million.
“We also believe that she has high quality fake ID documents and has changed her appearance,” he adds.
Bartlett doesn’t rule out the possibility that she is no longer alive.
Ignatova was last seen boarding a flight from Bulgaria to Greece in 2017. She has been missing since then.
One OneCoin victim, Scottish-born Jen McAdam, told the BBC in 2019 that she and her friends and family lost more than €250,000. She says that it all started with a message from a friend about an unmissable investment opportunity.
Jen McAdam clicked on a link and watched an online lecture by OneCoin. For an hour, she listened intently to people enthusiastically talking about this attractive new cryptocurrency, and how it could make a fortune.
McAdam said it took him months to realize it was all a hoax.
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