OneCoin founder Ruja Ignatova to be added to FBI's most wanted list

Quick Take

  • Ruja Ignatova will be added to the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list on Thursday morning.
  • The OneCoin founder was last seen in Athens in late 2017.

The FBI added OneCoin founder Ruja Ignatova to its Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list at a press conference on Thursday at 11am.

According to a statement from the US Attorney for the South District of New York, Ignatova "allegedly defraud[ed] investors of more than $4 billion through the OneCoin cryptocurrency company."

OneCoin’s business was built on selling educational cryptocurrency trading packages to its members, who were incentivized with commissions to sell to yet more new members. The scheme claimed its membership was as large as 3 million people during its peak, including victims across the globe. 

However, it had no blockchain technology behind it and users were unable to redeem their coins for fiat or transfer it into other cryptocurrencies. Instead, those that made money from the scheme did so through recruiting new investors. 

Ignatova, who holds Bulgarian and German citizenship, disappeared in late 2017. She was last seen in Athens, Greece, in the company of two Russian-speaking men. Despite attempts to locate her — including by the popular BBC podcast series "The Missing Cryptoqueen" — her whereabouts are currently unknown.

Other key figures in the OneCoin leadership have been apprehended. In 2019, the Southern District of New York charged Ignatova and others involved in OneCoin with fraud. Among them was her younger brother Konstantin Ignatov, who despite a plea deal is currently awaiting sentencing of up to 90 years in prison. 

The FBI is offering a reward of up to $100,000 for information leading to her arrest. But it's not the only agency on the hunt for her. In May, Ignatova was also added to Europol's most wanted list, albeit with a much smaller €5,000 reward.

“There are so many victims all over the world who were financially devastated by this. We want to bring her to justice,” Special Agent Ronald Shimko, who is investigating the case out of the FBI’s New York Field Office, said in a statement.

The FBI said that Ignatova speaks English, German and Bulgarian, and may be traveling on a fraudulent passport. She has known connections to Bulgaria, Germany, Russia, Greece and the United Arab Emirates.

© 2023 The Block. All Rights Reserved. This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.