The splintering of one of the world’s biggest cryptocurrency frauds began with an act of jealousy.
Ruja Ignatova, whose OneCoin raked in billions, suspected her boyfriend of stringing her along in late 2017, her brother later testified in federal court. So, he said, she had an associate rent an apartment beneath the boyfriend’s Florida digs and drill through the floor to eavesdrop.
What she discovered was another kind of betrayal: that he was cooperating with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Weeks later Ms. Ignatova, known among her fans as the Cryptoqueen, disappeared. Federal prosecutors in New York have charged her with fraud.
The story of OneCoin stands out even among the outlandish capers of the cryptocurrency era. The Justice Department said OneCoin accounts show it took in some $4 billion from the fourth quarter of 2014 to the third quarter of 2016, sucking in investors from Africa to the U.S., Venezuela to China.
At its heart is a family drama, revealed in court testimony and documents, interviews with cryptocurrency experts, and a review of publicly available information, videos and advertising.
Today, Ms. Ignatova is nowhere to be found. Her OneCoin co-founder, Sebastian Greenwood, is in a U.S. jail awaiting trial on fraud charges, and Mark Scott, a lawyer who worked for OneCoin, has been convicted in federal court of laundering $400 million. Her brother, Konstantin Ignatov, who became OneCoin’s public face after she vanished, is in U.S. custody after striking a deal to plead guilty to fraud and other charges. He’s awaiting sentencing this fall. A lawyer for Mr. Ignatov didn’t respond to requests for comment. Ms. Ignatova couldn’t be located. A lawyer for Mr. Scott said he had challenged his conviction and intended to appeal.
A lawyer for Mr. Greenwood, Bruce Barket, said: “The government’s assertion that OneCoin is a fraudulent scheme doesn’t make it so. It is just as likely that any harm to investors has been caused by the government’s accusations and not the structure of OneCoin.”
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