The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has continued its educational journey on digital asset-related scam cases. In its latest official podcast episode, the bureau zeroed in on Ruja Ignatova, the co-founder of the OneCoin “blockchain” platform that allegedly defrauded investors of over $4 billion.
The episode, hosted by Monica Grover of the FBI’s Office of Public Affairs, gave a breakdown of the case so far without providing any new information. Created in 2014 by Ignatova and her partner, Sebastian Greenwood, the Bulgaria-based OneCoin platform was marketed as a “Bitcoin killer” to investors eager to enter the digital assets market.
However, the relationship between OneCoin and blockchain technology was only in the description and not in practice. Unlike other blockchains where transactions are recorded on a public ledger and price is determined by market forces, OneCoin users never saw a record of transactions and had the price of the token set by the company.
“OneCoin claimed to have a private, centralized blockchain. So standard cryptocurrencies have a public, decentralized blockchain, which means its users can see all the transactions across the currency and that supply and demand determine the market value,” the podcast said.
The founders also operated it as a multi-level marketing scheme where users get “perks” for referring others. Ignatova bragged in 2016 that the platform had over two million active users and more than 12 million entry points even without an accurate way to track any metrics except through the company’s words.
By October 2017, however, Ignatova disappeared from her last known location—Athens, Greece—after a warrant was issued for her arrest on charges of operating a fraud scheme. The FBI says it is possible she was tipped off about her being put under investigation.
The bureau also believes that the 42-year-old may have altered her physical appearance and may be traveling with falsified passports.
FBI closing the net on the fugitive
The focus on Ignatova, infamously called the “Crypto Queen,” is coming after the FBI added her to its 10 most wanted fugitives list in June. The FBI promises a $100,000 reward for information that can lead to her apprehension.
Europol also made a similar announcement in April, placing a €5,000 bounty for information on her whereabouts. Meanwhile, since her disappearance, her partner Greenwood, her brother Konstantin Ignatova, and the lawyer of OneCoin Mark Scott have all been arrested. Scott was found guilty of charges that he laundered over $400 million for the scheme, according to Reuters.
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