Missing CryptoQueen bounty hiked to $5 million — woman ran a $4.5 billion crypto-ponzi-scam, says FBI

FBI Most Wanted - the CryptoQueen
(Image credit: FBI Most Wanted)

BBC News reports that the FBI has increased the bounty on missing CryptoQueen Dr. Ruja Ignatova to $5 million. Bulgaria-born German national Ignatova went missing in 2017 after a federal warrant was issued for her arrest. She is accused of wire fraud, money laundering, and related offenses while operating a Ponzi scheme dubbed OneCoin and defrauding over $4 billion from victims.

OneCoin wasn’t even a cryptocurrency, according to crypto investor sites like CoinDesk. Instead, it was a Ponzi scheme riding the coattails of investor enthusiasm during the height of the crypto craze. There was no blockchain technology behind OneCoin, with its internally managed and opaque functionality. Like any Ponzi scheme, existing investors were incentivized to bring in fresh blood, garnering billions in capital before the fraud was unmasked.

After Ignatova first went missing in 2017, the FBI issued her arrest warrant and put up a reward of $100,000. In 2022, the CryptoQueen made it to the FBI’s ten most wanted list, and the bounty went up to $250,000. As per our headline, helpful sleuths can now dream of a fat $5 million check as Ignatova’s case has qualified for the US State Department’s Transnational Organized Crime Reward Program.

(Image credit: FBI Most Wanted)

Dr. Ignatova, the CryptoQueen, has become the only woman in the FBI’s top 10 most wanted list. Going by the scale of the bounty, her notoriety now ranks alongside fugitives such as drug cartel kingpins from Europe and Russia and even the head of the international MS-13 criminal gang.

The Missing CryptoQueen also has gangland connections. She doesn’t sound like a typical tech geek, with her suspected links to the Bulgarian underworld—the country where OneCoin originated and operated.

A BBC podcast hosted by Jamie Bartlett resurfaced the Missing CryptoQueen story just ahead of the bounty being increased twenty-fold. Bartlett seems to think the enormous bounty hike is a good idea. “$100,000 wouldn’t persuade a junior member of a crime syndicate or a personal bodyguard to call the FBI’s hotline - it’s far too risky. But $5m just might.” Said the podcaster. “We will probably know within a few weeks if it’s worked.”

However, there is a dreadful truth anyone interested in the $5 million must face. Ignatova may be dead, so any reward seeking her “arrest and/or conviction” might not be valid. There are rumors that the CryptoQueen isn’t just dead by natural causes or an accident, but she was murdered by the suspected Bulgarian mafia boss involved in her disappearance. Amateur sleuths, please be careful out there.

Mark Tyson
News Editor

Mark Tyson is a news editor at Tom's Hardware. He enjoys covering the full breadth of PC tech; from business and semiconductor design to products approaching the edge of reason.

  • bit_user
    The latest I've heard via some recent BBC news program (sorry, I forget which) is that she's thought to be deceased (mob hit).

    Anyone interested should check out the BBC podcast, though. It sounds like a good listen, though I didn't go through it myself.