The FBI's Most Wanted 'Crypto Queen' Scammed Investors Out of $4 Billion. Now, 5 Years Later, a London Apartment Listing May Have Blown Her Cover.
Ruja Ignatova vanished in 2017 after orchestrating a Ponzi Scheme to con investors into buying her OneCoin crypto token.
Disgraced "Crypto Queen" Ruja Ignatova's time on the run may be coming to an end.
Ignatova, 42, a German citizen born in Bulgaria, is a former crypto pioneer who vanished in October 2017 after over-promising high returns on her OneCoin crypto token in a $4 billion Ponzi Scheme. She's now facing several charges of fraud and has been on the run from the FBI for five years.
Although she hasn't been seen since her disappearance, a new London apartment listing suggests she's alive and evading arrest.
Ignatova, the only woman on the FBI's most wanted list, was recently found to be connected to an £11 million [$13.6 million] penthouse apartment for sale in Kensington, England, thanks to a new rule change by the UK's Companies House, which acts similarly to the U.S's Public Company Accounting Oversight Board.
The rule now requires properties purchased by companies to also list a beneficiary, and while it is believed Ignatova originally purchased the home under a shell company, a new court filing to the UK's financial regulators lists Ignatova as the "beneficial owner" of the property – inadvertently exposing her whereabouts.
Ignatova's connection to the home was first spotted by the host of "The Missing Cryptoqueen" podcast, Jamie Bartlett.
"[The document] suggests she is still alive, and there are documents out there somewhere which contain vital clues as to her recent whereabouts," Bartlett told iNews.
Since Ignatova's link to the home, which was listed on Knight Frank real estate website, was confirmed, the listing has been removed.
Here's what to know about the disgraced "Crypto Queen."
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Who is Ruja Ignatova?
Before Ruja Ignatova become one of 11 women to be on the FBI's most wanted list in its 72-year history, she was regarded as a rising star in the crypto industry.
Ignatova was known for liking glitz and glamour, per CNN, and was revered for growing from her humble beginnings in Germany to success as a consultant and then a crypto entrepreneur.
Together with her business partner Sebastian Greenwood, the pair convinced investors to back their OneCoin crypto token which they said would be more valuable than Bitcoin. However, authorities found that OneCoin defrauded investors out of $4 billion in one of the largest international fraud schemes of all time.
"OneCoins were entirely worthless … (Their) lies were designed with one goal, to get everyday people all over the world to part with their hard-earned money," U.S. prosecutors said, according to court documents.
Furthermore, the court documents reveal that Ignatova and Greenwood intended to deceive their clients from the get-go, calling their own token a "trashy coin" and discussing an exit strategy in private emails.
Their scheme imploded in 2016 when investors struggled to sell their OneCoins to recoup their investments, alerting the media and investigators to look into the business.
Then in October 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice charged Ignatova with one count of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, securities fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering, with a federal judge issuing a warrant for her arrest, court documents state.
But Ignatova fled on a flight from Sofia, Bulgaria, to Athens, Greece, just two weeks after the warrant was issued and she hasn't been seen since.
The FBI has offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to her arrest. Additionally, they said: "Ignatova is believed to travel with armed guards and/or associates. Ignatova may have had plastic surgery or otherwise altered her appearance."
The #FBI has named Ruja Ignatova to its Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List. She is wanted for her alleged participation in a large-scale fraud scheme involving cryptocurrency. Up to $100,000 reward offered for info leading to her arrest: https://t.co/oU7EKYqaCi pic.twitter.com/tJ8co8aqx0— FBI Most Wanted (@FBIMostWanted) June 30, 2022
What Happened to OneCoin?
Ruja Ignatova and her cofounder lured people to their OneCoin scheme beginning in 2014 by promising investors around the world a fivefold or tenfold return on their investments.
Taking advantage of the crypto frenzy at the time, investors gave them $4 billion between 2014 and 2016. However, OneCoin's value was manipulated by the company and it was never mined like other cryptocurrencies, despite telling investors otherwise, according to CNN.
Once regulators uncovered the scheme and Ignatova vanished, she left her partners to deal with the fallout.
Cofounder Sebastian Greenwood was arrested in July 2018. He's currently in jail after pleading guilty to wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and conspiracy to launder money. He is set to be sentenced in April.
Ignatova's brother, Konstantin Ignatov, who was also a part of the business scheme, was arrested in March 2019 and is set to be sentenced in February after pleading guilty to wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering, and fraud charges.
Since the scandal unraveled, OneCoin has been shut down and its website is no longer active.
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What Is Ruja Ignatova's Net Worth?
A lawsuit filed by the victims against OneCoin revealed that Ignatova had $500 million in Dubai bank accounts as of 2021, per a report by Financial Finds. It's unknown how much crypto she holds, but the outlet found that she was paid 230,000 Bitcoins by a member of the Emirati royal family in 2015.