U.S. State Department Offers New $5M Reward for Missing ‘Cryptoqueen’

OneCoin founder Ruja Ignatova went missing in Athens in 2017.

AccessTimeIconJun 26, 2024 at 3:31 p.m. UTC
Updated Jun 26, 2024 at 3:34 p.m. UTC
  • The U.S. government published an up-to-$5 million reward for information on OneCoin's Ruja Ignatova.
  • Ignatova disappeared in Athens in 2017 after her Ponzi scheme fell apart.

The U.S. State Department is offering a $5 million bounty for information leading to the arrest or conviction of OneCoin founder Ruja Ignatova, the self-styled “Cryptoqueen,” who vanished in Athens in 2017.

The new reward, announced Wednesday, is offered under the State Department’s Transnational Organized Crime Rewards Program, and boosts the previous reward of $250,000 offered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Ignatova was added to the FBI’s Most Wanted list in 2022.

Authorities in Ignatova’s native Bulgaria also announced Wednesday that Ignatova would be indicted in absentia for her role in the crypto ponzi scheme, which stole an estimated $4 billion from investors around the world between 2014 and its collapse in early 2017.

OneCoin operated through a network of promoters, who solicited investments in return for purported tokens, but notably did not actually involve any cryptocurrencies – OneCoin did not exist on any blockchain, and Ignatova and her team manipulated its perceived value through the automatic generation of new coins.

The State Department has called OneCoin “one of the largest global fraud schemes in history.”

In addition to the charges in Bulgaria, Ignatova – a German national – faces criminal charges in the U.S., Germany and India.

Several of Ignatova’s former OneCoin associates have been sentenced to prison for their role in the scheme. Last year, OneCoin co-founder Karl Greenwood was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his crimes, plus $300 million in forfeiture. Two of the scam project’s lawyers – Bulgarian national Irina Dilkinska and American Mark Scott – were sentenced to prison earlier this year, Dilkinska getting four years behind bars and Scott sentenced to 10.

Disappearing act

Ignatova went missing shortly after being indicted in the U.S. in the fall of 2017 and was last seen on a flight from Sofia, Bulgaria to Athens.

The FBI has suggested that Ignatova may have altered her appearance with plastic surgery or may be traveling on a German passport in the Middle East or Eastern Europe.

There are also rumors that Ignatova may have been killed. In 2023, a report from a Bulgarian media outlet suggested that, in 2018, Ignatova was murdered and dismembered on a yacht in the Ionian Sea at the command of a Bulgarian drug lord known as “Taki," though this report has never been verified.

Edited by Nikhilesh De.


Please note that our privacy policy, terms of use, cookies, and do not sell my personal information has been updated.

CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that covers the cryptocurrency industry. Its journalists abide by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by the Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, digital assets exchange. The Bullish group is majority-owned by Block.one; both companies have interests in a variety of blockchain and digital asset businesses and significant holdings of digital assets, including bitcoin. CoinDesk operates as an independent subsidiary with an editorial committee to protect journalistic independence. CoinDesk employees, including journalists, may receive options in the Bullish group as part of their compensation.

Cheyenne Ligon

Cheyenne Ligon is a CoinDesk news reporter with a focus on crypto regulation and policy. She has no significant crypto holdings.