$15 billion Onecoin Ponzi scheme: The story of the ‘Cryptoqueen’, Ruja Ignatova

Remember the meteoric rise of FTX and Sam Bankman-Fried, the seemingly invincible king of crypto, only to witness its spectacular collapse and SBF’s downfall? Brace yourself for another tale of audacity and deceit, this time involving the infamous “Cryptoqueen”, Ruja Ignatova, and her brainchild – the elaborate Ponzi scheme that was OneCoin.

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Ignatova’s rise to infamy: Weaving a web of enchantment

Ruja Ignatova’s ascent to the dubious throne of “Cryptoqueen” was paved with charisma, strategic manipulation, and a carefully crafted persona. Here’s a deeper dive into how she achieved such infamy:

Charismatic Pied Piper:

  • Ignatova was a natural orator, captivating audiences with her fluent English and confident demeanour. Her presentations were theatrical, filled with grandiose promises and techno-jargon delivered with the conviction of a true visionary.
  • She played into existing distrust of traditional financial institutions, positioning herself as an outsider shaking up the establishment and empowering ordinary people through “decentralised” finance.

Exorbitant promises, blind faith:

  • OneCoin’s returns were touted as astronomical, far exceeding anything offered by conventional investments. This outlandishness, instead of raising red flags, fuelled excitement and a sense of getting in on the ground floor of a revolutionary movement.
  • Investors were lured by the dream of becoming overnight millionaires, easily seduced by Ignatova’s charisma and the allure of quick wealth.
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The spectacle of OneCoin events:

  • OneCoin events were not mere presentations; they were extravaganzas designed to dazzle and impress. Luxurious venues, opulent decorations, and celebrity appearances created an aura of exclusivity and success.
  • Ignatova, adorned in designer labels and dripping in jewellery, personified the lavish lifestyle promised to investors. This theatricality served to legitimise OneCoin in the eyes of many, masking the underlying emptiness of the scheme.

The making of the “Cryptoqueen”:

  • The media readily lapped up Ignatova’s story, portraying her as a self-made billionaire and a revolutionary force in the male-dominated world of finance. This coverage further amplified her image and bolstered investor confidence.
  • She cultivated a carefully curated online presence, sharing photos of her jet-setting lifestyle and philanthropic endeavours. This carefully crafted persona fuelled the myth of the invincible “Cryptoqueen”, leaving few questioning her motives.

Ignatova’s rise to infamy was as impressive as it was deceptive. By blending charisma, outlandish promises, and meticulously crafted appearances, she wove a web of enchantment that ensnared millions of investors.

This tragic chapter in cryptocurrency history serves as a stark reminder of the seductive power of manipulation and the importance of critical thinking in the face of extraordinary claims.

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Beneath the glimmer: Unmasking the OneCoin fraud

OneCoin’s facade of a revolutionary cryptocurrency crumbled under the weight of its own absurdity. The cracks in its edifice began to show, revealing a rotten core fuelled by deception and manipulation.

The emperor’s new blockchain:

  • OneCoin claimed to be mined through a smartphone app, a ludicrous notion in the world of actual cryptocurrencies. The lack of a transparent blockchain, the fundamental technology behind legitimate cryptocurrencies, was conveniently glossed over.
  • Transactions within the OneCoin ecosystem were mere cosmetic changes in a closed database, orchestrated by Ignatova and her cohorts. They held the keys to manipulating the value and distribution of the non-existent coins.

Ponzi scheme 101:

  • Early investors saw impressive returns, not from any market activity, but from the influx of funds from newer recruits. This classic Ponzi scheme model kept the illusion of profitability alive, drawing in more and more individuals.
  • The pyramid structure further incentivised recruitment, with investors rewarded for bringing in new victims. This created a cascading wave of deception, with each layer built upon the shaky foundation of stolen funds.
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The cracks emerge, the Queen flees:

  • As red flags multiplied and regulatory scrutiny intensified, doubts about OneCoin’s legitimacy began to spread. Investigations exposed the lack of a real blockchain and the suspicious nature of the “mining” process.
  • Facing legal threats and a crumbling house of cards, Ignatova, the architect of the fraud, vanished in 2017. This audacious escape cemented her infamy and left investors and authorities grappling with the aftermath of the scam.

The hunt for justice:

  • Ignatova’s disappearance triggered a global manhunt, with Interpol issuing a Red Notice for her arrest. Her co-founder, Greenwood, faced the consequences, receiving a 20-year prison sentence for his role in the scheme.
  • Investors, however, are left with shattered dreams and financial losses. Legal battles continue, seeking restitution and holding those responsible accountable.

The OneCoin saga serves as a chilling reminder of the devastating consequences of financial fraud. It underscores the importance of due diligence, scepticism towards outrageous claims, and the need for regulatory oversight in the nascent world of cryptocurrencies.


The elusive Cryptoqueen: A global chase for justice

Ruja Ignatova, the “Cryptoqueen”, remains a spectre haunting the financial world. Her vanishing act in 2017 left a trail of devastation, billions of dollars lost, and a relentless pursuit by international law enforcement agencies. Here’s a deeper dive into the ongoing hunt for justice:

The only woman on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted:

  • Ignatova’s infamy has reached astronomical heights. Her inclusion on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted ist, alongside notorious criminals like Osama Bin Laden and El Chapo, speaks volumes about the magnitude of her alleged crimes.
  • This unprecedented position reflects the FBI’s unwavering commitment to apprehending her and bringing her to justice for the OneCoin scam.

A globe-trotting enigma:

  • Ignatova’s whereabouts remain a tantalising mystery. Speculation places her in various corners of the world, from the luxurious shores of Greece and Dubai to the dense jungles of South America.
  • Each potential location fuels rumours and theories, keeping investigators on their toes and frustrating the pursuit of justice. Her seemingly effortless ability to evade capture only adds to her mystique.

A collaborative web of pursuit:

  • The hunt for Ignatova is not a solo endeavour. International law enforcement agencies have joined forces, sharing intelligence and resources to track her down.
  • Interpol’s Red Notice, a global alert calling for her arrest, signifies the coordinated efforts of authorities across borders.
  • This collaboration increases the chances of apprehending her and potentially recovering the stolen billions, offering a glimmer of hope to defrauded investors.

Fuelling the chase:

  • The motive behind the relentless pursuit goes beyond simply capturing a fugitive. It’s about upholding the rule of law, deterring future financial crimes, and offering closure to the victims of OneCoin.
  • The billions lost represent lives shattered, futures stolen, and dreams crushed. Every lead pursued, every clue analysed, is fuelled by the desire to make things right and deliver justice.

The uncertain future:

  • The chase for Ignatova is an ongoing saga, filled with twists, turns, and dead ends. Whether she’ll be found, brought to justice, and held accountable for her actions remains an open question.
  • However, the unwavering efforts of international law enforcement agencies offer a beacon of hope. The hunt for the “Cryptoqueen” continues, serving as a testament to the pursuit of justice, no matter how elusive the target may be.

Ignatova’s story embodies the dark side of cryptocurrency, a cautionary tale of deceit and greed. The ongoing hunt for her serves as a reminder that even the most cunning criminals can’t outrun justice forever. With continued collaboration and perseverance, the global web of investigators may one day bring the “Cryptoqueen” to face the consequences of her actions.

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The deceptive echo: Ignatova’s enduring legacy

Ruja Ignatova’s legacy extends far beyond the billions stolen and the investors left in ruins. Her story has become a cautionary tale etched in the annals of financial crime, sparking critical conversations about unregulated schemes and the pitfalls of unchecked ambition.

A stark reminder of unregulated greed:

OneCoin’s spectacular collapse serves as a chilling reminder of the dangers lurking in the shadows of unregulated financial markets. It exposes the vulnerability of individuals seduced by the allure of “get-rich-quick” schemes and warns against blind trust in charismatic con artists.

Legitimacy on trial: The cryptocurrency conundrum:

Ignatova’s fraudulent cryptocurrency operation ignited a global debate about the future of digital currencies. It raised concerns about the legitimacy of unregulated cryptocurrencies and the need for stricter regulations to safeguard investors from falling prey to similar scams.

A call for investor vigilance:

OneCoin’s demise serves as a powerful call to arms for investor vigilance. It emphasises the importance of thorough research, critical thinking, and scepticism in the face of outlandish promises and extravagant claims. Investors are urged to conduct due diligence, seek expert advice, and prioritise established platforms over unregulated ventures.

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The mystery endures: Fuelling speculation and investigation:

Ignatova’s disappearance adds a layer of intrigue to the already captivating saga. Her whereabouts remain a mystery, fuelling speculation and investigative efforts. Documentaries, podcasts, and books dedicated to unravelling her life and motivations continue to emerge, capturing the public’s fascination with the elusive “Cryptoqueen”.

Beyond the headlines: A catalyst for change:

While Ignatova’s story is undoubtedly captivating, it’s crucial to remember the human cost associated with her deception. The lives shattered, families torn apart, and futures stolen deserve attention beyond the realm of entertainment. OneCoin’s legacy should serve as a catalyst for positive change, driving efforts towards strengthening financial regulations, enhancing investor education, and preventing similar tragedies from repeating.

Ignatova’s story is still unfolding, with authorities actively searching for her and investors fighting for compensation. Ruja Ignatova, disappeared in 2017, and her whereabouts remain unknown. She was charged with wire fraud, securities fraud, and money laundering in the United States.

OneCoin’s business practices have been subject to investigations and legal actions in several countries, with authorities labelling it as one of the largest cryptocurrency frauds in history. One thing is certain: she has left a significant mark on the world of finance, a cautionary tale of ambition gone astray.



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OneCoin: A timeline of deception

OneCoin, once touted as a revolutionary cryptocurrency, turned out to be a massive Ponzi scheme orchestrated by Ruja Ignatova, the infamous “Cryptoqueen”, and her co-founder, Karl Sebastian Greenwood. Here’s a detailed timeline of its rise and fall:


  • January: OneCoin is launched by Ignatova and Greenwood, claiming to be a peer-to-peer cryptocurrency mined through a smartphone app.
  • April: OneCoin’s website goes live, promoting the coin with exaggerated claims of profitability and technological innovation.
  • September: OneCoin holds its first extravagant event in Sofia, Bulgaria, with Ignatova captivating the audience with promises of wealth and financial freedom.


  • Continuous growth: OneCoin’s popularity explodes, attracting investors worldwide through aggressive marketing and multi-level marketing schemes.
  • Red flags emerge: Early concerns arise about the lack of transparency in OneCoin’s mining process and the absence of a real blockchain.
  • More events: Ignatova continues to hold lavish events across the globe, further solidifying her image as a successful entrepreneur.


  • Regulators take notice: Financial authorities in several countries begin investigating OneCoin, suspecting it to be a pyramid scheme.
  • Legal troubles: OneCoin faces lawsuits and cease-and-desist orders, but continues to operate undeterred.
  • Ignatova disappears: In October, Ignatova vanishes mysteriously, leaving investors and authorities in the dark.
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  • Greenwood arrested: Ignatova’s co-founder, Greenwood, is apprehended in Thailand and later extradited to the United States.
  • OneCoin exposed: Investigations confirm OneCoin’s fraudulent nature, revealing it as a classic Ponzi scheme with no underlying technology or value.
  • Global manhunt: The search for Ignatova intensifies, placing her on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list.

2018 – present:

  • Greenwood sentenced: In 2019, Greenwood is sentenced to 20 years in prison for his role in the OneCoin scam.
  • Investor losses mount: The total losses from OneCoin are estimated to be in the billions of dollars, impacting investors worldwide.
  • Legal proceedings: Lawsuits against OneCoin and its promoters continue, seeking compensation for defrauded investors.
  • Ignatova’s whereabouts unknown: Despite ongoing investigations, Ignatova’s location remains a mystery, adding to the intrigue surrounding the OneCoin saga.
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It’s important to note that this timeline is based on publicly available information and ongoing investigations. Some details may remain unclear or disputed until Ignatova is apprehended and brought to justice.

From the gilded age robber barons to the dot-com bubble burst, history is littered with the wreckage of elaborate financial schemes built on deception and fuelled by misplaced trust. OneCoin’s story takes its rightful place among these cautionary tales, reminding us that the human capacity for manipulation and the lure of quick wealth remain eternal.

Yet, each era also witnesses the unwavering pursuit of justice and the tireless efforts of those who refuse to be swayed by empty promises. The hunt for Ignatova isn’t just about capturing a fugitive; it’s about upholding the rule of law, preserving faith in financial systems, and ensuring that even the most cunning con artists can’t outrun the relentless pursuit of truth.


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