Ignatova is known for her involvement in the Ponzi scheme known as OneCoin, which is estimated to have defrauded investors out of over $4 billion.
The scam, which was active from late 2014 to March 2016, promoted OneCoin as a cryptocurrency project with its own native crypto asset that would “kill off Bitcoin.” In 2016, in front of a crowd of thousands, Ignatova falsely claimed that OneCoin was on track to become the world’s biggest cryptocurrency.
In marketing the cryptocurrency, Ignatova also claimed that OneCoin had its own private blockchain. This contrasted OneCoin from other cryptocurrencies which have public and decentralized blockchains.
There was no blockchain and the crypto asset behind the scam was not real. But OneCoin’s victims were not privy to this information, and continued to wire investment funds to their OneCoin accounts to purchase crypto packages that were essentially worthless. (Related: CRYPTO CON: LUNA founder siphoned off $80 million PER MONTH from the crypto Ponzi scheme before it collapsed, leaving investors wiped out.)
FBI offering reward for information on Cryptoqueen’s whereabouts
By 2017, OneCoin’s investors started to become suspicious. Some of OneCoin’s major investors wanted to meet with Ignatova at a scheduled gathering of OneCoin promoters in Lisbon, Portugal, in Oct. 2017. Ignatova never showed up, and she disappeared right around that time.
According to FBI reports, Ignatova traveled from her native Bulgaria to Athens, Greece, on Oct. 25, 2017, and from there traveled elsewhere and went into hiding. The U.S. District Court of New York had already issued a federal warrant for her arrest by that time.
By Feb. 2018, Ignatova was indicted in absentia for wire fraud, securities fraud and money laundering. She was added to the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list on June 30, becoming only the 11th woman to be placed on the list.
In Nov. 2021, during a trial against Ignatova’s German attorney Martin Breidenbach, information came out revealing how the Cryptoqueen lived a lavish lifestyle and purchased an $18.2 million penthouse in London before she disappeared. By mid-May 2022, the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol) added Ignatova to Europe’s Most Wanted Fugitives list.
Investigators say that, before she fled, she had black hair and brown eyes. The FBI warned that “she could have altered her physical appearance.”
Ignatova speaks fluent Bulgarian, German and English, and the FBI noted she may be traveling on a fraudulent passport to stay with known associates in Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Russia or the United Arab Emirates.
The FBI is offering up to $100,000 for information on her whereabouts. Europol is also offering a reward of up to 5,000 euros ($5,214) for information that can lead to Ignatova’s capture.
FBI special agent Ronald Shimko, one of the lead investigators attached to Ignatova’s case, hopes the Cryptoqueen’s addition to the 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list will bring more attention to the case and lead to her arrest.
“There are so many victims all over the world who were financially devastated by this,” said Shimko in a statement. “We want to bring her to justice.”
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