‘Cryptoqueen’ Ruja Ignatova Gets New $5 Million Bounty From FBI

Despite reports of her death, the story of so-called “Cryptoqueen” Ruja Ignatova is not over yet, as the U.S. Department of State announced that it was raising the reward for information leading to her arrest and conviction to $5 million on Wednesday.

In June 2022, Ignatova was added to the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List. While the Department of State and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation did not give a reason for the reward increase, the bounty on Ignatova was $100,000 in 2018. Still, as the mystery over her disappearance grew, law enforcement steadily increased the size of the bounty.

The story of Ruja Ignatova’s rise and fall began in 2014 with the launch of OneCoin, a purported cryptocurrency marketed as the next Bitcoin when, in reality, it was a massive Ponzi scheme that attempted to use the hype around the number one cryptocurrency by market capitalization to dupe investors.

In 2017, the OneCoin scheme collapsed after robbing investors of $4 million, and Ignatova went into hiding as a warrant was issued for her arrest. According to the FBI, Ignatova traveled from Sofia, Bulgaria, to Athens, Greece, noting that she may have also traveled on a German passport to the United Arab Emirates or Russia.

On February 6, 2018, the DOJ charged Ignatova with one count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering, and securities fraud. In May 2022, Europol added Ignatova to its Most Wanted List as well, offering a 5,000 Euro (around $5,340) reward.

The search for Ignatova hit a major hurdle in February 2023, when Bulgarian investigators said the alleged fraudster was murdered in 2018 on the orders of a drug lord Ignatova was paying for protection. The story took a crazier turn when the police report noted that the person reporting that Igantova was killed was intoxicated at the time.

Earlier this month, a new episode of the long-running BBC podcast “The Missing Cryptoqueen” investigated the claims of Ignatova’s death, noting that Ignatova became a liability due to the international investigations into OneCoin and Ignatova.

While the podcast called the possibility of Igantova’s murder “a good theory,” they acknowledged that Ingatova could have faked her death to get investigators off of her heels.

The FBI never removed her from its Most Wanted List. The Department of State and FBI did not immediately respond to requests for comments from Decrypt.

While Ignatova remains on the lam, other members of the OneCoin scam have been apprehended by law enforcement, including co-founder Karl Sebastian Greenwood, who pleaded guilty to federal charges of wire fraud and money laundering in connection to the scam in December 2022. In November, Irina Dilkinska, the former head of legal and compliance at OneCoin, pled guilty to wire fraud and money laundering charges related to the scheme.

Edited by Ryan Ozawa.

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