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FBI Adds Bulgarian “Crypto Queen” to Most Wanted List

#FBI #Adds #Bulgarian #Crypto #Queen #Wanted #List

A Bulgarian woman dubbed the “crypto queen” after raising billions of dollars in a fraudulent virtual currency scheme was added to the FBI’s 10 most wanted list on Thursday.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation offered a $100,000 reward for Ruja Ignatova, who disappeared in Greece in October 2017, around the time US authorities filed a sealed indictment and an arrest warrant against her.

The 42-year-old, who is also a German citizen, was behind one of the most notorious scams in the often treacherous world of cryptocurrencies.

In 2014, it launched OneCoin with the rumored aim of replacing Bitcoin as the world’s leading virtual money.

She and her co-conspirators tapped into a global network to market the coin in exchange for their own payouts to friends and family, raking in at least $3.4 billion and possibly over $4 billion, according to court documents.

Officials said that unlike other cryptocurrencies, OneCoin was not backed by secured, independent blockchain technology.

Instead, it’s a classic Ponzi scheme, where early investors are encouraged to find others and then paid off by proceeds from later investors.

“OneCoin claimed to have a private blockchain,” FBI Special Agent Ronald Shimko said in a statement.

“This is in contrast to other virtual currencies that have a decentralized and public blockchain. In this case, investors were simply asked to trust OneCoin,” he said.

Ignatova disappeared in 2017 as international investigators began to close in on her group.

“Investigators believe Ignatova may have received a tip that she is under investigation by US and international authorities,” the FBI said Thursday.

“She traveled from Sofia, Bulgaria to Athens, Greece on October 25, 2017 and has not been seen since.”

On May 11, Europol announced that Ignatova had been placed on its most wanted list and offered a €5,000 ($5,200) reward for information on her whereabouts.

But on Thursday she was no longer on the list. It was not clear why or when she veered off, and authorities in Europe and the United States have presented no evidence as to whether she is alive or dead.

Her brother Konstantin Ignatov was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport in March 2019 and later pleaded guilty to wire fraud in a deal with US authorities.

His sentencing was delayed because the Justice Department said in court filings that there was ongoing cooperation in the investigation.

Another partner, Sebastian Greenwood, was arrested in Thailand in 2018 and then extradited to the United States, where he remains in prison awaiting trial.

Another accomplice, US Attorney Mark Scott, was convicted in November 2019 of laundering $400 million for the group.

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#FBI #Adds #Bulgarian #Crypto #Queen #Wanted #List

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