A woman known as "Cryptoqueen," who reportedly defrauded investors of more than $4.1 billion worldwide, has made it to the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. The announcement was made in Manhattan on Thursday morning, June 30.

Bulgarian-born Ruja Ignatova, notorious online as the famed "Cryptoqueen," has been accused of defrauding investors out of approximately $4.1 billion in a fake cryptocurrency scheme. Ignatova reportedly made bold promises that her cryptocurrency, OneCoin, founded in 2014, would become the next Bitcoin. She subsequently attracted billions of dollars in investments from more than 3 million people in 175 countries. However, OneCoin only existed in the minds of its creators and never existed on a public blockchain, the Daily Beast reported.

Ignatova, 41, has been on the lam since October 2017, a day after a warrant was issued for her arrest in the U.S. Ignatova is charged with one count each of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, securities fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The FBI called OneCoin a “massive fraud scheme” and offered an amount of $100,000 for information leading to Ignatova’s arrest.

“There are so many victims all over the world who were financially devastated by this,” Special Agent Ronald Shimko said. “We want to bring her to justice.”

In 2019, federal prosecutors in Manhattan indicted Ignatova and her business partners, calling OneCoin a “pyramid scheme based on smoke and mirrors, more than zeroes and ones.”

According to prosecutors, Ignatova, her brother, and others who worked for the company advertised the cryptocurrency as being mined on computers and priced based on market demand. However, the creators never mined a single coin, and founded the company “fully intending to use it to defraud investors,” FOX 5 New York reported.

In 2016, from the earnings she made from OneCoin, Ignatova purchased a 7,000-square-foot apartment in a ritzy London neighborhood that was previously owned by British singer Duffy. The wanted woman filled the apartment with an estimated US$606,272 (£500,000) worth of art, including two original Warhols. She also threw a luxurious 36th birthday party at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

However, on Oct. 25, 2017, Ignatova’s lavish public life ceased after she hopped on a flight to Athens, Greece, and disappeared. She is wanted by both Interpol and Europol. According to German investigators, she is believed to have changed her appearance with plastic surgery to avoid detection.

Meanwhile, her co-founder, lawyer, and brother have been arrested and prosecuted in connection with the scheme.

“Eventually I’m confident we’ll find her,” Mike Driscoll, FBI assistant director in charge of the New York office said.

A Russian crypto crime boss who allegedly laundered some $4 billion in Bitcoin has been extradited from Greece to San Francisco to face trial on federal charges. This is a representational image. Pixabay

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