“Crypto” is often used as an honorific inside the community. United States Securities and Exchange Commission member Hester Peirce is called Crypto Mom for her steadfast support for digital assets, and Time magazine crowned Vitalik Buterin the Prince of Crypto. When Ruja Ignatova was given the title “Cryptoqueen” in a 2019 true-crime podcast, however, it was with far less endearment.
Ignatova was the creator of OneCoin, a purported cryptocurrency that proved to be a Ponzi scheme. According to law enforcement, her OneCoin Ltd. has defrauded more than 3 million investors of more than $4 billion since 2014. Her company has also been accused of bribing the presidents of Serbia and Bulgaria, among other things.
Now Ignatova can add “most wanted” to her titular stylings, thanks to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which placed her on its top-ten list Thursday and will pay up to $100,000 for information leading to her arrest. According to the FBI, Ignatova was last known to be in Athens. That was in 2017.
Ignatova recently counted among Europol's most wanted as well, although she is no longer on that list.
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Ignatova grew up in Germany and holds a Ph.D. in economics. In her heyday, the ethnic Bulgarian was known for her elegant attire and fancy parties. She attracted a crowd of over 3,000 to Wembley Arena in London to hear her speak in 2016, even though suspicions about her activities were already common knowledge by that time.
Since then, OneCoin has been the subject of a class-action suit, and her brother and associates have been brought to trial. The world has taken note of the drama inherent in the case. Kate Winslet is reportedly involved in a film based on the experiences of a OneCoin investor. Variety reports that a deal has been made on a three-part documentary about Ignatova as well.