Girl on Fire: Ruja Ignatova the CryptoQueen at large

“She appears to be a girl, but she is actually a flame. “She’s so bright, she can burn your eyes, so look the other way.”

It was June 2016, and bitcoin was a big issue, with investors scurrying for profits.

Ruja Ignatova took the stage in a flowing burgundy gown adorned with black sequins, with beams of light falling on her and Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire” playing over the speakers.

“She looks like a girl, but she’s actually a flame.

“So bright, she can burn your eyes – better look the other way,” the speakers yelled in the background as she grinned and thanked the audience at London’s Wembley Arena.

Ignatova nicknamed herself Cryptoqueen and sold her enterprise, OneCoin, as prosperous.

“What a terrific occasion! Over 11,500 people showed up! “You are all amazing!” Ruja Ignatova stated that “in two years no one will be talking about Bitcoin anymore” as investors clapped enthusiastically.

Ignatova vanished from sight sixteen months later, when she boarded a flight from Sofia, Bulgaria to Athens. Since then, no one has seen her.

Ruja Ignatova: Who is she?

Bulgarian-born Ruja Ignatova was born in 1980. She was reared in Germany, where her mother is a teacher and her father is an engineer.

Her family relocated to Germany when she was a small girl, and Ignatova excelled academically and spent her free time studying and playing chess. Her peers described her as reclusive, smart, and ambitious.

Ignatova vanished from sight sixteen months later, when she boarded a flight in Sofia, Bulgaria. Since then, no one has seen her.

Ignatova attended the University of Konstanz in Germany on a scholarship and married a fellow law student there.

There have been allegations that she attended Oxford University in England, but no information on the institution, course, or admittance date has been provided. She received her PhD in private international law from the German University of Konstanz in 2005. It is also stated that she worked for McKinsey & Company.

“She desperately wanted to be rich”

She told people she wanted to be a millionaire by the time she was thirty, and she read money-making books from early in the morning.

After studying European law at Oxford University, Ignatova worked in Sofia as a consultant for the multinational management consulting firm McKinsey&Company.

Her clients respected her and associated with her rise from humble beginnings and strong desire for money. Her fluency in Bulgarian, German, English, and Russian was incredibly useful.

Ignatova placed high importance on appearances, usually attending events in evening gowns, bright red lipstick, and diamond jewelry.

Everything was glamorous and successful. She was obsessed with looks and elegance.

The ten FBI fugitives that are most wanted

Ruja Ignatova is the only woman among the FBI’s top ten most wanted fugitives, which also includes murderers and gang leaders.

She is one of just 11 women on the FBI’s list of 529 fugitives, which has been released since 1950.

Ignatova and her associates duped victims into parting with billions of dollars by falsely claiming that OneCoin would become the “killer of Bitcoin.”

OneCoins were, in fact, useless. Their lies are manufactured with the sole purpose of duping ordinary people across the world into giving them their hard-earned money.

Ignatova vanished in October 2017, but her image has appeared in worldwide media and on the FBI website ever since. Additionally, she is one of Europe’s most sought fugitives.

“Ignatova is believed to be travelling with armed guards and/or associates,” the warrant states toward the bottom. Ignatova may have changed her appearance in some way, such as through plastic surgery.

The FBI categorizes fugitives based on the gravity of their offences and the level of threat.

The cryptocurrency OneCoin was designed mainly to defraud investors.

However, court records show an astonishing story of how Ignatova and Karl Sebastian Greenwood, one of OneCoin’s co-founders, allegedly knew from the start that their ambitious idea was a Ponzi scheme.

According to FBI agents, the OneCoin cryptocurrency was designed to defraud investors.

Greenwood and Ignatova referred to the OneCoin idea as a “nonsense coin” in emails while developing it.

According to the records, in an email to Ruja’s brother Konstantin Ignatov, who also engaged in the scheme and took over OneCoin after his sister went missing, Greenwood referred to his investors as “idiots” and “lunatics.”

In a 2014 letter to Greenwood, Ignatova remarked, “Maybe not perfectly clean or something to be proud of (except with you alone when we make money),” In a 2014 email to Greenwood, she also advised them on how to exit the company if it fails, suggesting that they should “take the money and run and blame this on somebody else.”

I’ve already written more about cryptocurrencies, but to summarize, digital assets such as Bitcoin are governed by a global, decentralized computer network rather than a bank or government. For example, expert crypto miners use data centre servers to generate Bitcoin.

The cryptocurrency market is a volatile and mostly unregulated industry, with experts having conflicting views on its viability.

Future economies, according to Bitcoin proponents, would be constructed on digital currencies valued by user communities rather than central banks. Critics dismiss them as a hoax or, at the very least, highly risky investments.

She carefully prepared and carried out her approach

Ignatova and Greenwood began presenting OneCoin to bankers in New York, Europe, and other regions in 2014. Regarding the accusation, they organised virtual conferences and webinars, asking prospective investors to fund an account that would facilitate the purchase of OneCoin bundles.

According to US prosecutors, OneCoin operated as a multi-level marketing network, with investors earning commissions for referring others to buy Bitcoin bundles. Packages generated income levels ranging from “beginner” to “tycoon trader”.

According to prosecution documents, Ignatova and her accomplices promised buyers a five- to ten-fold return on their investment.

There was frenzied shopping. Investors contributed approximately four billion dollars to OneCoin between the fourth quarters of 2014 and 2016.

According to court papers, US investors donated approximately $50 million.

Ignatova took full advantage of the wild speculation that followed the early days of cryptocurrencies by timing her strategy perfectly.

Unlike other cryptocurrencies, OneCoin was not mined. OneCoin was produced using software rather than a large number of powerful servers.

Prosecutors have obtained an email exchange between Ignatova and Greenwood from August 2014 in which she remarked, “We don’t actually mine, we just tell people shit.”

The value of OneCoin, like that of other cryptocurrencies, was wholly controlled by the firm and was not determined by open market supply and demand.

The concerns initially appeared in 2016

When investors were unable to sell their OneCoins in order to recoup their initial investments, the façade began to crumble in 2016. On the Internet, word spread that the deal was a scam.

The press began to investigate.

Federal investigators from the United States and other countries became engaged.

It’s unclear what happened to Ignatova’s marriage.

However, the FBI claimed that she discovered OneCoin was under investigation after bugging her American boyfriend’s residence and discovering he was assisting a federal probe into her company’s business activities.

The person you trust the most usually betrays you

In October 2017, the US Department of Justice brought charges against Ignatova. The allegations are for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, securities fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering conspiracy.

Each of these offences has a maximum punishment of 20 years in jail.

She was also charged with securities fraud, which carries a possible five-year prison sentence.

A federal judge in New York has issued a warrant for her arrest.

2017: All traces of her disappeared

On October 25, 2017, she took a commercial trip from Sofia to Athens. After that, she vanished, putting her business associates in charge of the collapsing corporation.

According to the FBI, she left Athens on a German passport and may have gone to Germany, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Eastern Europe, or even back to Bulgaria.

A $100,000 reward is being offered by the FBI for information that results in her arrest.

Ruja made off with a sizable sum of money. I suppose she’s taking advantage of the fact that you can make a lot of friends with money.

Her partners were arrested

Not so fortunate were her partners. After being detained in July 2018 at his Koh Samui, Thailand, home, Greenwood was extradited to the United States.

He entered a guilty plea to wire fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering in December of that same year. He is being held and could spend twenty years in prison on each of the three charges.

Konstantin Ignatov, Ignatov’s brother, was taken into custody at Los Angeles International Airport in March 2019. He was on a business trip to the US and was getting ready to take a plane back to Bulgaria.

Subsequently, akin to a scene from a movie, he was shackled by five large guys dressed in suits and led to an interrogation room where he was repeatedly questioned about his sister’s disappearance.

Ignatov entered a guilty plea, and the punishment ought to be given.

OneCoin is no longer in operation, and its website has been taken down.

However, its creator, a long-dressed woman adorned with dazzling jewels, managed to get away from the law.

The location of the crypto queen is still unknown more than five years after she disembarked from a plane in Greece.

This post was written by Mario Bekes