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Who Is the Mystery Crypto Queen on the Run After an Alleged Scam?

The FBI is offering $100,000 to anyone who helps arrest OneCoin co-founder Dr. Ruja Ignatova.

Some are arguing that we are in the midst of a crash that cryptocurrency won't be able emerge from. Bitcoin price fell 40% in the last month while more and more smaller currencies that emerged during the hype are being identified as scams.

One of the most prominent examples would be OneCoin, a cryptocurrency that attracted over $4 billion in investments between 2014 and 2016. Traders, and later the Federal Bureau of Investigation, later accused it of being run as a typical Ponzi scheme. The hype around it attracted those whose funds were used to prove OneCoin's success.

FBI's Director-in-Charge William Sweeney previously said that, despite it being positioned as a currency like any other, OneCoin had "no real value" to anyone except its founders.

The FBI Is After the 'Crypto Queen'

While co-founder Sebastian Greenwood was arrested in Thailand, extradited to the U.S. and eventually imprisoned, another person alleged to have played a pivotal role in OneCoin's rise and fall is Bulgarian national Dr. Ruja Ignatova.

Calling herself the 'Crypto Queen' at the peak of OneCoin's popularity, Ignatova has been on the run from authorities since 2017. On June 30, the FBI added her to its Ten Most Wanted Fugitive List alongside several people who are on the run and suspected of murder and other violent crimes such as Jason Derek Brown and Arnoldo Jimenez.

"Investigators say Ignatova allegedly took part in a large-scale fraud scheme," the FBI said in a Thursday release. "Beginning in approximately 2014, Ignatova and others are alleged to have defrauded billions of dollars from investors all over the world. [...] Ignatova served as OneCoin’s top leader through October 2017."

Offering $100,000 for Information on Ignatova's Whereabouts

Clearly, the desire to find Ignatova is high — the FBI is offering a reward of up to $100,000 for any information that will lead to her arrest.

Prior to OneCoin's crash, Ignatova was known for leading an extravagant lifestyle positioned as a "you, too, can live this way off of crypto." These included photos of a glitzy London apartment filled with rare art and a birthday party at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

While Ignatova already had several other fraud accusations prior to OneCoin's founding, the alleged scam started to unwind around 2017 as investors started asking more and more questions about returns. 

Ignatova was last seen in 2017 on a flight to Greece from Bulgaria after which she went completely off the radar. The FBI previously said that a tip-off allowed her to escape and avoid detection for what is now nearly five years. 

"Ignatova traveled from Sofia, Bulgaria, to Athens, Greece on October 25, 2017, and may have traveled elsewhere after that," the FBI wrote. "She may travel on a German passport to the United Arab Emirates, Bulgaria, Germany, Russia, Greece and/or Eastern Europe."

Her brother Konstantin Ignatov, who also played a key part in promoting OneCoin, was arrested at LAX in 2019 and is currently awaiting sentencing amid multiple delays. 

There have been many theories and conspiracy theories around Ignatova's prolonged disappearance — some suspected that she has been killed. State Criminal officers in Germany believe that she has since "surgically changed her appearance" to avoid detection.

Prior to her placement on the FBI's most wanted list, Ignatova had already been placed on a similar list by Europol with a reward of up to 5,000 euros (around $5,300 USD).