One Coin co-founder sentenced to 20 years and fined $300 million

Quick Take

  • Karl Sebastian Greenwood, who co-founded OneCoin in 2014 with the so-called “Crypto Queen” Ruja Ignatova, was sentenced to 20 years on Tuesday. 

OneCoin founder Karl Sebastian Greenwood was sentenced to 20 years in prison after prosecutors accused him of cheating 3.5 million people who invested in OneCoin and using the money for five-star resorts, a private plane and a yacht. 

Greenwood, 46, was sentenced on Tuesday and was ordered to pay $300 million, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York said in a statement. Greenwood had previously pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering.

Greenwood co-founded OneCoin in 2014 with the so-called Crypto Queen-turned-fugitive Ruja Ignatova. Greenwood was arrested in Thailand in 2018, charged with fraud and money laundering and extradited to the U.S. Ignatova faces similar charges, but has not been seen since 2017 when she took a flight to Greece. She was added to the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted List in June 2022, the attorney’s office said.

“As a founder and leader of OneCoin, Karl Sebastian Greenwood operated one of the largest fraud schemes ever perpetrated.  Greenwood and his co-conspirators, including fugitive Ruja Ignatova, conned unsuspecting victims out of billions of dollars with promises of a ‘financial revolution’ and claims that OneCoin would be the ‘Bitcoin BTC +0.84% killer,’” said U.S. Attorney Damian Williams in a statement. OneCoins were worthless, he said.

“We hope this lengthy sentence resonates in the financial sector and deters anyone who may be tempted to lie to investors and exploit the cryptocurrency ecosystem through fraud,” Williams added. 

OneCoin not the same as bitcoin


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OneCoin marketed its cryptocurrency through a global multi-level marketing network, which prosecutors said helped contribute to its growth. Prosecutors say Greenwood and Ignatova wanted investors to believe that OneCoin was comparable to bitcoin and often drew comparisons between the two. 

In a presentation prepared by Greenwood, OneCoin said it was a “a unique and innovative cryptocurrency, that is born on the success of the pioneering and famous cryptocoin, Bitcoin,” according to prosecutors. 

“In reality, unlike legitimate cryptocurrencies, OneCoin had no actual value and was conceived of by Greenwood and Ignatova as a fraud from day one,” prosecutors said on Tuesday.

Greenwood earned more than $300 million in the scheme and spent it on trips including $10,000 on a five-star resort in Brazil and $21,000 at a luxury villa in Thailand. He also used the fund to pay for designer clothes, watches, a yacht, real estate in multiple countries and for a private “OneCoin” airplane, prosecutors said. 

© 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.

About Author

Sarah is a reporter at The Block covering policy, regulation and legal happenings. Before, Sarah was a reporter with CQ Legal writing about securities regulation, which is where she first started reporting on crypto. Sarah has also written for The Bond Buyer and American Banker, among other finance-related publications. She graduated from the University of Missouri and earned a degree in print and digital journalism. Sarah is based in Washington D.C., and is an avid coffee lover. You can follow her on Twitter @ForTheWynn.


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