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[Discussion] Unmasking Ruja Ignatova: The FBI's $5 Million Hunt for the "Cryptoqueen"

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The Steady Increase in Bounty

The elusive figure known as the "Cryptoqueen," Ruja Ignatova, continues to be a target of US law enforcement, despite reports of her untimely death. Just recently, the US Department of State declared a $5 million reward for any information that would help in her arrest and conviction. Igantova was included in the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List in June 2022. Although specifics around the reward increase were not disclosed by the Department of State or the FBI, the bounty on Ignatova saw a substantial rise from $100,000 in 2018 as the enigma around her whereabouts escalated.

The Downfall of OneCoin

Ignatova's notorious reputation started in 2014 with the introduction of OneCoin. Pitched as the successor to Bitcoin, OneCoin was eventually exposed as a massive Ponzi scheme that leveraged the popularity around the top cryptocurrency in an attempt to mislead investors. By 2017, the fraudulent scheme had collapsed and left investors down by $4 million. A warrant was swiftly issued for Ignatova's arrest and she was charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering, and securities fraud the following year by the Department of Justice. In May 2022, she was officially added to Europol's Most Wanted List, which came with a supplemental reward of 5,000 Euro (about $5,340).

The Mystery Surrounding Ignatova's Disappearance

Ignatova's whereabouts remain unknown, adding a sense of intrigue to her story. It's known that she journeyed from Sofia, Bulgaria, to Athens, Greece, but investigations from the FBI suggest she may have also made her way to either the United Arab Emirates or Russia using a German passport. The search for Ignatova took a bizarre twist in February 2023 when Bulgarian investigators reported that she was killed in 2018 under orders of a drug lord she had been paying for protection. The legitimacy of this report became questionable when it was revealed the individual who reported Ignatova's death was under the influence at the time.

Recently, the BBC podcast “The Missing Cryptoqueen” delved into the allegations surrounding Ignatova’s death. The podcast admitted that the possibility of Ignatova being murdered was plausible, but did not discount the possibility that she faked her own death to elude authorities. Despite these rumors, Ignatova remains listed on the FBI's Most Wanted List.

While Ignatova is yet to be Apprehended, her accomplices in the OneCoin scam, including co-founder Karl Sebastian Greenwood and former head of legal and compliance Irina Dilkinska, have been arrested and pled guilty to wire fraud and money laundering charges.

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