Ignatova disappeared without a trace after she boarded a flight from Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria to Athens on October 25, 2017.
Announcing a reward of up to $100,000 for information leading to her arrest on Thursday, June 30th, the FBI said that she might have had cosmetic surgery to transform her appearance.
The Bulgaria-born German citizen disappeared with around 500 billion dollars in Bitcoin, the competitor currency she promised to kill.
Ignatova founded OneCoin Crypto
In approximately 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.
Ignatova capitalized 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.
Crypto whale defrauded victims out of billions
“OneCoin claimed to have a private blockchain,” said Special Agent Ronald Shimko, who is investigating the case out of the FBI’s New York Field Office. “This contrasts to other virtual currencies, which have a decentralized and public blockchain. In this case, investors were just asked to trust OneCoin.”
Throughout the scheme, Ignatova’s crypto is believed to have defrauded victims all over the world out of billions.
Shimko said Ignatova targeted individuals who may not have fully understood the ins and outs of cryptocurrencies but were moved by Ignatova’s impressive resume and the marketing strategies used by OneCoin.
On October 12, 2017, Ignatova was charged in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and a federal warrant was issued for her arrest.
Investigators believe Ignatova may have been tipped off that she was under investigation by U.S. and international authorities. She traveled from Sofia, Bulgaria, to Athens, Greece, on October 25, 2017, and has not been seen since.
On February 6, 2018, a superseding indictment was issued, charging Ignatova with one count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering, and securities fraud.
Shimko hopes that the publicity of the Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list will bring more awareness to the case. “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 eleventh woman 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.
Ignatova speaks English, German, and Bulgarian. She may be traveling on a fraudulent passport and has known connections to Bulgaria, Germany, Russia, Greece, and the United Arab Emirates. Shimko noted that before she disappeared, Ignatova lived a lavish lifestyle, the FBI says.