What to Know
- Three face charges over an alleged multibillion-dollar pyramid scheme involving the sale of fake cryptocurrency, authorities say
- Konstantin Ignatov, his sister Ruja Ignatova and Mark Scott were all charged, U.S. Attorney of Manhattan Geoffrey Berman announced Friday
- Ignatova, known as the "Cryptoqueen," remains at large, prosecutors say
Three people, including a woman known as the “Cryptoqueen,” are facing charges over an alleged multibillion-dollar pyramid scheme involving the sale of a fraudulent cryptocurrency known as “OneCoin,” authorities said.
Konstantin Ignatov, his sister Ruja Ignatova and Mark Scott were all charged, U.S. Attorney of Manhattan Geoffrey Berman announced Friday.
Ignotav, 33, was arrested Wednesday at Los Angeles International Airport on a wire fraud conspiracy charge stemming from his alleged role as the leader of the alleged scheme, prosecutors said. If convicted he faces up to 20 years in prison.
Scott, 50, is charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and also faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Meanwhile, Ignatova, the 38-year-old “Cryptoqueen” who is a founder and original leader of “OneCoin,” remains at large, prosecutors say.
She is charged with one count each of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, securities fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years sentence, and one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, prosecutors say.
Attorney information for the accused was not immediately available.
“As alleged, these defendants created a multibillion-dollar "cryptocurrency" company based completely on lies and deceit. They promised big returns and minimal risk, but, as alleged, this business was a pyramid scheme based on smoke and mirrors more than zeroes and ones. Investors were victimized while the defendants got rich,” Berman said in a statement.
According to prosecutors, Ignatov serves as the top leader of OneCoin Ltd., a Bulgarian company marketing an alleged cryptocurrency named “OneCoin,” which an investigation revealed is a fraudulent pyramid scheme.
According to court documents, OneCoin Ltd. was co-founded in 2014 by Ignatova, who served as OneCoin’s top leader until her disappearance from public view in October 2017. Her younger brother, Ignatov, assumed high-level positions at OneCoin in late 2017, eventually rising to the top leadership position by mid-2018.
Court documents say that OneCoin operates as a multi-level marketing network through which members receive commissions for recruiting others to purchase cryptocurrency packages. OneCoin has claimed to have more than 3 million members worldwide, including victims within Manhattan, according to the documents.
Allegedly, victims invested billions of dollars worldwide in the fraudulent cryptocurrency, prosecutors say, adding that OneCoin continues to operate.
Records obtained in the course of the investigation show that, between the fourth quarter of 2014 and the third quarter of 2016, OneCoin garnered €3.353 billion in sales revenue and earned “profits” of €2.232 billion.
Additionally, court documents say, that the investigation revealed that OneCoin was built with the full intention of defrauding investors.
It is also alleged that the company claimed that OneCoin cryptocurrency is “mined” using mining servers maintained and operated by the company and that the value of OneCoin is based on market supply and demand. However, the value of OneCoin is not determined based on the market, but rather internally, and OneCoins are not mined using computer resources, court documents say.
Additionally, OneCoin Ltd. allegedly claimed to have a private “blockchain,” or a digital ledger identifying OneCoins and recording transactions. However, court documents say, the company lacks a true blockchain.
Prosecutors also allege that Scott, who is a former partner of a major United States law firm, assisted Ignatova and others in laundering more than $400 million through a series of supposed investment funds holding bank accounts at financial institutions in the Cayman Islands and the Republic of Ireland, among other locations. He was arrested on Sept. 5, 2018.