The FBI placed Ruja Ignatova, known as the "Cryptoqueen" for defrauding $4 billion from investors in a fraudulent cryptocurrency known as OneCoin, on its Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. Photo courtesy FBI
June 30 (UPI) -- The FBI on Thursday added "Cryptoqueen" Ruja Ignatova to its Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.
The agency is offering a reward of up to $100,000 for information leading to the arrest of Ignatova, 42, who allegedly defrauded more than $4 billion from investors in a cryptocurrency scheme.
Ignatova co-founded the Bulgarian-based company OneCoin, which was promoted as a "bitcoin killer," although investigators said they believe OneCoins were not minted in the same way as other cryptocurrencies with their value determined by the company, rather than market demand.
"OneCoin claimed to have a private blockchain," FBI Special Agent Ronald Shimko said. "This is in contrast to other virtual currencies, which have a decentralized and public blockchain. In this case, investors were just asked to trust OneCoin."
Through OneCoin, Ignatova and her partner allegedly targeted people who may not have fully understood cryptocurrencies and promoted the currency through a multi-level marketing strategy that urged investors to sell additional packages to friends and family.
On Oct. 12, 2017, Ignatova was charged in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and a federal warrant was issued for her arrest.
She traveled from Bulgaria to Greece on Oct. 25, 2017, and has not been seen since as investigators believed she had been tipped off that she was under investigation by U.S. and international authorities.
Ignatova is the 11th woman to have been placed on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives.
Investigators said Ignatova speaks English, German and Bulgarian, and may be traveling on a fraudulent passport to Bulgaria, Germany, Russia, Greece and the United Arab Emirates. She has brown eyes and dark brown to black hair but investigators believe she may have altered her physical appearance.
"There are so many victims all over the world who were financially devastated by this," Shimko said. "We want to bring her to justice."