The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has offered a reward of up to $100,000 for information leading to the arrest of 'Crypto Queen' Ruja Ignatova, making her one of the top 10 most-wanted criminals in the country.
The FBI, which added her to its 'Ten Most Wanted Fugitives' list, said that Ignatova is being sought for her alleged leadership of a massive fraud scheme resembling a Ponzi scheme that affected millions of investors worldwide.
In 2014, Ignatova and her partner founded OneCoin, a Bulgarian-based company that was marketed as a new virtual currency that would be the "Bitcoin killer". Ignatova allegedly made false statements and representations about OneCoin to draw people to invest in OneCoin packages.
According to investigators, Ignatova and her partner also promoted OneCoin through a multi-level marketing strategy that urged OneCoin investors to sell additional packages to friends and family, the FBI said in a statement.
"OneCoin claimed to have a private blockchain. This is in contrast to other virtual currencies, which have a decentralised and public blockchain. In this case, investors were just asked to trust OneCoin," said Special FBI Agent Ronald Shimko.
Ignatova capitalised on the excitement surrounding cryptocurrencies to draw in new investors.
While the company is said to have used many of the terms associated with virtual currencies, investigators believe that OneCoins were not mined in the way traditional to cryptocurrencies.
In addition, the value of OneCoin was determined by the company rather than market demand and throughout the scheme, OneCoin is believed to have defrauded victims all over the world out of billions.
Targeted gullible public
Ignatova targeted individuals who may not have fully understood the ins and outs of cryptocurrencies but were moved by her impressive resume and the marketing strategies used by OneCoin, said FBI.
"There are so many victims all over the world who were financially devastated by this," Shimko said. "We want to bring her to justice."
Ignatova is only the 11th woman to have been selected to be on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list in its 72-year history.
"She is currently 42 years old and has brown eyes and dark brown to black hair. Investigators, however, believe she could have altered her physical appearance," said the FBI.
(With inputs from IANS)