Ruja Ignatova, one of the biggest scammers in history, was the brain behind OneCoin's Ponzi scheme. The fraudulent cryptocurrency-based investment scheme lured many investors. BBC called Ruja Ignatova The Missing Crypto Queen in its 2019 podcast series. Is the Bulgarian fraudster behind bars? Find out more in this article!
Ruja Ignatova's story serves as a warning to those looking for quick money. What is the difference between a Ponzi scheme and a pyramid scheme? Unlike a pyramid scheme, the One Coin members did not recruit people. Investors believed profits came from legit businesses. They were unaware that earlier investors earned from new ones.
Ruja Ignatova profile summary
- Full name: Ruja Ignatova
- Date of birth: 30th May 1980
- Place of birth: Sofia, Bulgaria
- Hometown: Schramberg, Baden-Württemberg state, Germany
- Zodiac Sign: Taurus
- Age: 41 years
- Company: OneCoin
- Nationality: Bulgarian
- Ethnicity: Caucasian
- Parents: Veska and Plamen Ignatov
- Sibling: Konstantin Ignatov
- Marital status: Married
- Spouse: Bjorn Strehl
- Children: 1
- Net worth: $500 million (bank) and $11 billion (BTC)
Ruja Ignatova biography
The self-proclaimed CryptoQueen was born in Sofia, Bulgaria. The 10-year-old Ruja then relocated with her parents, Veska and Plamen Ignatov, to Schramberg in Baden-Württemberg state, Germany. In 2005, she graduated with a PhD in European private law from the University of Konstanz.
In 2012, German authorities convicted her of fraud. The company she was linked to filed for bankruptcy shortly after she purchased it. This, however, did not stop her.
The court gave her a 14-month suspended sentence. Ignatova was also involved in another multi-level marketing (MLM) scheme called BigCoin. Unfortunately, BigCoin collapsed, leaving her with only OneCoin.
Dr Ruja Ignatova worked for McKinsey before starting OneCoin. It is an international asset management firm. She teamed up with Sebastian Greenwood and Konstantin Ignatov to establish Onecoin on 16th September 2014.
They registered it as an offshore company in Dubai and later registered a subsidiary Onelife Network in Belize. However, they established OneCoin's headquarters in Bulgaria. Ponzi offered clients packages connected to a blockchain network. In 2015, Bulgaria's FSC (Financial Supervision Commission) warned the public about the project.
Many people ignored FSC and invested money in the project. The scammers made them believe that OneCoin would soon take Bitcoin out of the market.
Dr Ruja Ignatova's Forbes cover page and interview in 2015 raised eyebrows. Why did Forbes advertise her Ponzi scheme? She was wealthy and could afford to place a paid advertisement on the famous Forbes magazine.
Authorities began investigations in 2016 and discovered that OneCoin never used blockchain technology in its operations. Trying to hire Bjorn Bercke (a blockchain expert) in October 2016 could have been OneCoin's worst mistake.
Bjorn and Jen McAdam were the whistleblowers. The US authorities issued her warrant of arrest in January 2017. The OneCoin CEO stepped down and boarded a Ryanair flight from Sofia to Athens in the same month, never to be seen again.
Was Ruja Ignatova's husband part of OneCoin?
Ruja sent her husband, Björn Strehl, an email describing her business exit plan. Although she urged him to take the money and frame someone else, Strehl did not do it. He was never part of her fraudulent business. The German-born lawyer currently works in Frankfurt. Strehl and Ruja Ignatova's daughter was born in 2016.
Is OneCoin still operating?
OneCoin and Ponzi mysteriously shut down in the same month Ruja went missing. It fraudulently took $4 billion from global participants. The FBI has been looking for Ruja for more than three years.
In early 2019, the US authorities charged her with several fraud-related crimes in absentia. It is alleged that the Ponzi scheme sent billions of USDs to Dubai banks and bought real estates in Dubai to finance Sheikh Saoud bin Faisal Al Qassimi and Mimoun Madani's (former realtor) operations.
Ruja's allies arrested and charged
US cops arrested Sebastian Greenwood in 2018 and detained Ruja Ignatova's brother, Konstantin Ignatov, in Los Angeles in March 2019. OneCoin's attorney, Mark Scott, was also convicted of laundering $400 million in 2019.
Konstantin took over OneCoin's leadership for some time before shutting it down. He pleaded guilty to his crimes and is helping authorities to investigate the issue. The Ponzi scheme victims' attorney, Dr Jonathan Levy, blames the unregulated digital currency ecosystem.
Ruja Ignatova's 2020 whereabouts
Was Ruja Ignatova found? The Behind MLM's researchers link her disappearance to several locations in the UAE region, Russia and Greece. Some people believe that Ruja Ignatova did plastic surgery, while others think she may be deceased.
The United Arab Emirates and the United States do not collaborate because they do not share an extradition treaty. So, where is Dr Ruja Ignatova now? The crypto queen has never been found. The US authorities are eradicating more Ponzi schemes while looking for her.
What is Ruja Ignatova's net worth?
It is alleged that she owns 230,000 BTC worth over $11 billion and $500 million in a Dubai bank account. The US authorities suspect Ruja received the bitcoins from Sheik Saoud, an Emirati royal family member from Dubai.
Ruja Ignatova is not the only scammer in the world. The US civil and criminal authorities uncovered 60 alleged Ponzi schemes worth $3.25 billion last year. Bernard Madoff owned the largest Ponzi scheme in history. We will share more details as they surface.
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