Among the FBI's 10 most wanted fugitives, Ignatova has been the only woman listed so far. About this time in 2017, she disappeared without a trace. The 40-year-old Bulgarian is wanted for her involvement in OneCoin, a cryptocurrency scam she had founded.
According to the FBI, Ignatova defrauded people who participated in OneCoin of $4 billion. The scheme had all the characteristics of a Ponzi scheme. To gain popularity, it relied on network marketing and commissions. A commission was paid to everyone who introduced a new buyer to the platform.
OneCoin: A sketch of the evasive Cryptoqueen
On the anniversary of the last known location of Ignatova, the chances of her being found are slim. TradingPedia's new research, shared in an article, suggests that the identity of the user may have changed.
This might explain why authorities have not been able to locate her, according to Brian McColl, an analyst at TradingPedia who led the research. It was ruled out that she might be dead.
It appears the FBI and Europol believe the fraudster is alive based on the fact that she is still wanted.
“We entrusted a criminal sketch artist with the task to explore the possibilities of what Ruja Ignatova might look like today, based on the most recent photos available before her disappearance in 2017,” McColl told in the report. “We asked them to add five years of aging and also examine the options of her gaining or losing weight, going through cosmetic surgery procedures, or even going to the extreme of changing her gender,” he added.
Ignatova may have assumed eight different faces in order to evade law enforcement, according to TradingPedia.
Scam artist's portrait
In one of the sketches, Ignatova appears to have undergone a complete gender transformation, having grown short hair and a beard.
Ignatova as a man. Sketches courtesy of TradingPedia
The Cryptoqueen has been spotted.
There is speculation that Ruja Ignatova may be living in luxury in Dubai. Jamie Bartlett suggested this in a special BBC podcast released last month. Besides Southeast Asia, she has also been spotted in Thailand.
Several documents obtained by the BBC demonstrate that Ignatova worked with Sheikh Faisal bin Sultan Al Qassimi, a royal in the United Arab Emirates. This was in order to release funds that had been frozen on suspicion of money laundering.
Apparently, Ignatova purchased a $20 million villa in the United Arab Emirates, where she has been hiding out for the past half a decade.
She struck a mega-million-dollar deal with Emirati royal Sheikh Saoud bin Faisal Al Qassimi, the BBC reported. Cryptocurrencies are a known interest of Al Qassimi. It has been reported that he sold 230,000 Bitcoins worth more than $48 million to Ignatova in 2015.
Ignatova is alleged to be purchasing intel from the Bulgarian police. It may be for this reason that she has been able to elude investigators for the past five years.OneCoin remains one of the biggest heists in the history of cryptocurrency. Financial freedom was elusive for a woman who sold potential financial freedom. It is an enigma.