The FBI announced Thursday that it has added Ruja Ignatova — also known as “Cryptoqueen” — to its Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. Ignatova is accused of creating a fake Bulgarian-based cryptocurrency company and defrauding investors out of nearly $4 billion.
According to the FBI, Ignatova is the just the 11th woman to be added to the list in the organization’s 72-year-history. Authorities have now offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to her capture.
“There are so many victims all over the world who were financially devastated by this,” Investigating Special Agent Ronald Shimko said in statement Thursday. “We want to bring her to justice.”
According to the FBI, Ignatova and her partner created a cryptocurrency company called OneCoin in 2014, which they claimed would be a “bitcoin killer.” Investigators said Ignatova promoted the company through a “multi-level marketing strategy” that encouraged initial investors to sell packages of OneCoin to friends and family.
Ruja Ignatova’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives poster
Shimko said that Ignatova used the excitement over cryptocurrency to lure in consumers who didn’t fully understand how cryptocurrency worked.
“OneCoin claimed to have a private blockchain,” Shimko added. “This is in contrast to other virtual currencies, which have a decentralized and public blockchain. In this case, investors were just asked to trust OneCoin.”
Investigators believe that Ignatova may have been tipped off that she was under investigation by U.S authorities. She was charged on October 12, 2017, and traveled from Sofia, Bulgaria, to Athens, Greece, on October 25 — but she hasn’t been seen since.
Months later, a superseding indictment charged her with one count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to commit securities fraud, and securities fraud.
Ignatova is 42 years old and was described as having “brown eyes and dark brown to black hair,” the FBI said, noting it’s possible she may have changed her appearance. The FBI also said she may be traveling with armed guards.
Ignatova speaks English, German, and Bulgarian. She may be traveling on a fraudulent passport and has known connections to Bulgaria, Germany, Russia, Greece, and the United Arab Emirates. Shimko noted that before she disappeared, Ignatova lived a lavish lifestyle.