Ruja Ignatova, who investigators say was the leader of a cryptocurrency scam that defrauded investors out of billions of dollars, has been placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, the agency announced Thursday.
The Bulgarian-born Ignatova is accused of making false statements and representations to attract investors to OneCoin, the company she founded in 2014 that marketed its purported virtual currency as the “bitcoin killer,” according to the FBI.
Ignatova–who branded herself as a “cryptoqueen”–capitalized on the excitement surrounding cryptocurrency and targeted victims who may not have fully understood investing in virtual currency, officials said in a statement.
OneCoin defrauded victims out of more than $4 billion , the agency said.
Unlike authentic cryptocurrencies which track transaction history, OneCoin could not be used to purchase real-life goods and “ had no real value ” to anyone except its founders, then-FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney Jr. said in a 2019 statement.
Ignatova also allegedly promoted OneCoin using a multi-level marketing strategy that coaxed investors to sell to family and friends.
The FBI is offering a reward of up to $100,000 for information leading to Ignatova’s arrest, and noted the agency hopes that her addition to the list helps draw attention to the case.
Ignatova is only the 11th woman to be featured on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list in its more than seven-decade history. Before Ignatova, the most recent was Shanika S. Minor, who was listed in 2016 for the fatal shooting of a pregnant woman.
Ignatova was last seen in October 2017 traveling from Sofia, Bulgaria, to Athens just after a federal warrant was issued for her arrest, which authorities say she may have been tipped off about. The following year a superseding indictment was issued charging Ignatova with five counts of fraud and conspiracy charges. The FBI noted that before her disappearance, Ignatova led a “ lavish lifestyle .” Her brother Konstantin Ignatov pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering in connection with the OneCoin scheme in 2019. Europol added Ignatova to its most-wanted list last month.