CNN remembers how in 2016 Ruja Ignatova “touted her company, OneCoin, as a lucrative rival to Bitcoin in the growing cryptocurrency market.” As OneCoin’s co-founder, Ignatova told one audience in 2016 that “In two years, nobody will speak about Bitcoin anymore.
“Sixteen months later, Ignatova boarded a plane in Sofia, Bulgaria, and vanished. She hasn’t been seen since.”
Authorities say OneCoin was a pyramid scheme that defrauded people out of more than $4 billion as Ignatova convinced investors in the US and around the globe to throw fistfuls of cash at her company. Federal prosecutors describe OneCoin as one of the largest international fraud schemes ever perpetrated. She is now one of the FBI’s 10 most-wanted fugitives, alongside accused gang leaders and murderers, and is the only woman currently on that list….
Ignatova and her partners “conned unsuspecting victims out of billions of dollars, claiming that OneCoin would be the ‘Bitcoin killer,'” US Attorney Damian Williams, New York’s top prosecutor, said in a statement last month. “In fact, OneCoins were entirely worthless … (Their) lies were designed with one goal, to get everyday people all over the world to part with their hard-earned money.”
One subheading of CNN’s story reads “She knew it was a scam from the start, court documents say.”
While [co-founder] Greenwood and Ignatova were working on the concept for OneCoin, they referred to it in emails as a “trashy coin,” federal officials said in court documents. The documents show Greenwood described their investors as “idiots” and “crazy” in an email to Ignatova’s brother, Konstantin Ignatov, who also took part in the scam and assumed OneCoin leadership after his sister vanished, according to prosecutors…. She also proposed an exit strategy should the company fail, saying in a 2014 email to Greenwood that they should “take the money and run and blame somebody else for this….”
Ignatova and her partners promised buyers a fivefold or even tenfold return on their investment, according to court documents. A buying frenzy ensued. Between the fourth quarter of 2014 and the fourth quarter of 2016 alone, investors gave OneCoin more than $4 billion, federal prosecutors said, citing records obtained in the course of their investigation. Some $50 million came from investors in the US, according to court documents. “She timed her scheme perfectly, capitalizing on the frenzied speculation of the early days of cryptocurrency,” said Williams, the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan.
The FBI is now offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to her arrest, according to the article, which notes this line appearing at the bottom of her FBI wanted poster.
“Ignatova is believed to travel with armed guards and/or associates. Ignatova may have had plastic surgery or otherwise altered her appearance.”