Co-Founder of OneCoin Pyramid Scheme Pleads Guilty; ‘CryptoQueen’ Still Wanted

Karl Greenwood has admitted to federal wire fraud and money laundering charges in the $4 billion OneCoin scam, the U.S. Department of Justice says.

AccessTimeIconDec 16, 2022 at 7:13 p.m. UTC
Updated Dec 16, 2022 at 10:44 p.m. UTC

One of the founders behind OneCoin pleaded guilty to federal U.S. charges on Friday after one of the largest financial scams of all time, according to the Department of Justice.

The purported cryptocurrency project was fraudulent from its 2014 beginnings, prosecutors said, with OneCoin – co-founded by Karl Greenwood – setting up a pyramid scheme to market it to millions of people, generating as much as $4 billion in revenue. Greenwood, 45, who allegedly called the investors “idiots” in an internal message, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and conspiracy to launder money.

“Karl Sebastian Greenwood operated one of the largest international fraud schemes ever perpetrated,” said Damian Williams, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. “Greenwood and his co-conspirators, including fugitive Ruja Ignatova, conned unsuspecting victims out of billions of dollars, claiming that OneCoin would be the ‘Bitcoin killer.’”

Ignatova, known as the “CryptoQueen,” remains on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Most Wanted list as another founder of OneCoin, which was based in Bulgaria. The FBI is offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to her arrest.

Williams said this case and other recent actions are meant to send “a clear message that we are coming after all those who seek to exploit the cryptocurrency ecosystem through fraud, no matter how big or sophisticated you are.”

Greenwood, a citizen of Sweden and the U.K., had been arrested at his home in Thailand in 2018 and extradited to the U.S.


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Jesse Hamilton

Jesse Hamilton is CoinDesk's deputy managing editor for global policy and regulation. He doesn't hold any crypto.