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Known as the “crypto queen”, “Bitcoin queen” or even a “scam”, Ruja Ignatova used to have a lot of experience in the financial field before being wanted by the FBI for scamming billions of dollars. USD from the OneCoin digital currency project.
In early July 2022, Ruja Ignatova, a scammer who was once known as the “crypto queen” was listed by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on the list of 10 most wanted fugitives. The agency is offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to Ignatova’s arrest.
Ruja Ignatova is wanted after appropriating billions of dollars from the multi-level cryptocurrency project OneCoin. When introducing OneCoin in 2016, Ignatova stated that it would be the most powerful digital currency in the world and would overtake Bitcoin as soon as it was launched. With his persuasive talent resonated with the uptrend of the cryptocurrency market, in addition to the exceptionally high announced profit rate, thousands of investors have participated in the project. However, she ran away in 2017 with huge sums of money from investors.
In a 2021 lawsuit in Dubai, Ignatova is also accused of holding 230,000 Bitcoins invested by Sheikh Saoud, a member of the royal family of the United Arab Emirates.
In the newly released book, Jamie Bartlett, the British reporter who hunted Ignatova for 4 years, shares the story of the “crypto queen’s” childhood, how she and her boyfriend “stormed” with her. OneCoin came to be specially wanted by the FBI.
Childhood is a student with a natural talent for learning but social isolation
After the fall of the Iron Curtain, the Ignatova family moved from Bulgaria to Schramberg (Germany) in 1990, when she was 10 years old. tension between Eastern and Western Europe during the Cold War.
After moving to Germany, Ignatova’s father worked at a tire shop, the whole family lived in a small house above a butcher’s shop. In the book, Bartlett describes Ignatova as a very good student.
“Even by the standards of strict parents, Ruja was exceptional. At school, she topped every subject with excellence. A teacher at Schramberg described Ruja as the brightest student in the school. he used to teach,” Bartlett wrote.
She studied very well, but Ignatova lived a closed life. “Other students found her unapproachable and arrogant. At 16, Ruja roamed the hallway in high heels and red lipstick as if it were her catwalk,” Bartlett said.
At the age of 18, Ignatova received a prestigious scholarship from the University of Konstanz, which is likened to the “Harvard of Germany”. She obtained her doctorate in 2005, then studied for a master’s degree in comparative European jurisprudence at Oxford University (UK). According to Bartlett, Ignatova is very intelligent, best in class but still difficult to approach.
In 2008, Ignatova worked at consulting firm McKinsey in Sofia (Bulgaria), then became a representative of some world famous banks. Due to her fluency in Russian, Ignatova regularly visits Moscow to “help Russian banks penetrate the European market”.
“She’s one of those people who’ll answer your emails in minutes, night or day. ‘I don’t want children,'” she once told a colleague so coldly. , Bartlett writes.
Taking advantage of FOMO psychology to create OneCoin project
After the 2008 financial crisis, the company closed, leaving Ignatova unemployed. Although she found a job at the largest investment firm in Bulgaria, she was not satisfied. The book states that Ignatova once wanted to launch cosmetics: “She became a famous face in the fields of fashion, business and city politics, but was not rich yet.”
To find her life-changing path, Ignatova researched Bitcoin. In early 2013, the value of this cryptocurrency exceeded 500 USD. Besides the winged words, many people believe that this is just a tool of drug traffickers and money launderers. Therefore, Ignatova wanted to create a superior version of the cryptocurrency.
In November 2013, Ignatova was a speaker at a crypto conference in Singapore. She outlined her plan to provide pensions in crypto, based on financial and banking literacy. Attending the conference was Sebastian Greenwood, who later joined Ignatova to create OneCoin.
According to the book, the two hatched plans to found OneCoin, which Ignatova dubbed the “Bitcoin killer” and the “future of money”. The project attracted a lot of attention thanks to the influence of Ignatova.
During the event held at the SSE Arena in Wembley, London (UK) 2016, Ignatova took to the stage to the music This Girl Is on Fire! by Alicia Keys. “She strode confidently with long jet-black hair, bold red lipstick, a red gown with glittering details, and diamond earrings. Everything exudes success and glamor,” Bartlett wrote in book.
Instead of advertising OneCoin directly, Ignatova sells videos and flyers on how to invest in cryptocurrencies, with a free amount of OneCoin with purchase. The highest price is £5,000 for the “Tycoon Trader” course. With the mentality of not wanting to miss (FOMO), Ignatova’s campaign created a wave of frantic purchases.
According to Bartlett, most investors at the time did not understand cryptocurrencies, but regretted not investing in Bitcoin. “As the price of Bitcoin skyrocketed in 2013, more and more life-changing stories about crypto emerged, not because of their knowledge or skills, simply because they got into investing early,” Bartlett wrote.
Faced with doubts about the OneCoin multi-level model, Ignatova invited lawyers to supervise and publish a transparent operating process. She assures investors that their deposits will be safe.
However, in reality, all of Ignatova’s promises were false. The published information is only “cooked” from another website, the legal team is a puppet while OneCoin itself has no blockchain, which means that the value can be manipulated by Ignatova at any time.
“Fake value, fake audit firm, fake exchange and fake course… Everything is a lie,” Bartlett writes in the book.
When receiving huge sums of money from investors, Ignatova and her associates spent like water. OneCoin leaders poured money into villas, yachts, luxury cars, designer clothes and jewelry. According to the book, OneCoin’s senior “strikers” bring in nearly 1 million euros in commissions per month.
“Living for two weeks in a penthouse in Kensington while traveling to London in December 2016, (Ignatova) spent most of her time shopping, returning with two bodyguards carrying bags of clothes and designer jewelry,” Bartlett wrote. The “crypto queen” also spent 7 million euros to use the Davina superyacht, which includes 6 rooms, an underwater viewing area, a bar and a massage room.
Another OneCoin leader, Juha Parhiala, bought a private resort in Thailand, owning a series of luxury cars such as Ferrari 488, Bentley and yellow Lamborghini Huracán. The biggest spender was Igor Alberts when he bought an 8-storey villa in a rich neighborhood on the outskirts of Amsterdam (Netherlands), placed many fiberglass statues, erected a 3-meter-high welcome gate.
When the “storks” come to work, Alberts takes them on a tour of every corner of the house, including the swimming pool, sauna, billiards table, Swarovski ornaments, more than 200 pairs of shoes, expensive watches and bags Dolce & Gabbana handbag.
Regarding love, Ignatova is said to have been with many people despite being married. According to Bartlett, she was married to lawyer Bjorn Strehl, but had feelings for Greenwood. In 2017, the “crypto queen” fell in love with another OneCoin leader, Gilbert Armenta (married). Two people talk about divorcing their partner to get together.
After hiring followers, Ignatova became angry when she learned that Armenta had no intention of divorcing his wife. At the same time, Armenta was tracked down by Manhattan authorities for financial transactions in 2015, which later led to an investigation involving OneCoin. When Armenta was arrested, he kicked Ignatova out.
After the FBI arrested her younger brother Konstantin Ignatov, the “crypto queen” knew she knew she was on the radar. She fled in 2017 on a flight from Sofia to Athens (Greece) and then lost track, leaving behind her lover, younger brother and associates who were entangled in the law. OneCoin also quickly collapsed.
Where is Ignatova?
Greenwood is being detained in Brooklyn (USA), facing charges of fraud, money laundering and securities fraud. His gold and property were also confiscated by Thai authorities. Armenta and Konstantin admitted the entire act. Mark Scott, a lawyer for OneCoin, was also found guilty of money laundering in New York. Police are looking to get back $400 million from this person.
However, so far, authorities have not yet focused on compensating victims. According to Bartlett, Ignatova’s net worth could reach billions of dollars.
In a lawsuit in 2021 in Dubai (UAE), Ignatova is accused of holding 230,000 Bitcoins given by Sheikh Saoud, a member of an Arab emirate. Today, that amount is equivalent to more than 9 billion USD.
“This number is enough to make Ignatova one of the richest criminals in the world,” Bartlett wrote. If she really owned the above amount of Bitcoins, she could access it without being tracked by the anonymity of the cryptocurrency.
In 2019, the US Attorney’s Office in Manhattan charged Ignatova in absentia with securities fraud, fraud and money laundering. In early July, she was listed by the FBI as one of the 10 most wanted fugitives. If caught and brought to trial, the “crypto queen” could face up to 90 years in prison.
Bartlett cited some rumors that Ignatova had plastic surgery, using a fake name to live. The male reporter hunted her from Greece to Dubai and France, on a yacht around the Mediterranean. It wasn’t Ignatova’s boat, but she could have outlawed for years with her wealth and fake passports.
“The queen of digital currency is floating somewhere in the sea with a new name, new face and limitless access to the decentralized currency Bitcoin,” Bartlett wrote.
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