Ruja Ignatova entered the stage wearing a burgundy ball gown adorned with black sparkles. Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire” blared through the speakers as beams of light flashed.
“She appears to be a girl, but she is a flame. “She’s so bright, she’ll burn your eyes if you look at her the wrong way,” the song crooned as a beaming Ignatova thanked the cheering crowd at London’s Wembley Arena.
That was in June 2016, when cryptocurrency was still a new buzzword and investors were scrambling to get in on the action. Ignatova dubbed herself the “Cryptoqueen,” and her company, OneCoin, positioned itself as a profitable rival to Bitcoin in the burgeoning cryptocurrency market.
“In two years, nobody will be talking about Bitcoin,” she predicted, as investors applauded and whistled.
Ignatova boarded a plane in Sofia, Bulgaria, and vanished sixteen months later. Since then, she has not been seen.
Authorities claim OneCoin was a pyramid scheme that defrauded people out of more than $4 billion as Ignatova persuaded investors in the United States and around the world to throw fistfuls of money at her company. According to federal prosecutors, OneCoin is one of the largest international fraud schemes ever perpetrated.
She is now one of the FBI’s ten most-wanted fugitives, along with accused gang leaders and murderers, and the only woman on the list. She is one of only 11 women on the FBI’s list of 529 fugitives since its inception in 1950.
Ignatova and her associates “duped unsuspecting victims out of billions of dollars by claiming that OneCoin would be the ‘Bitcoin killer,'” New York’s top prosecutor, US Attorney Damian Williams, said in a statement last month.