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OneCoin Co-Founder Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud, Money Laundering

The U.S. Department of Justice announced on Friday that “Cryptoqueen” Ruja Ignatova associate and OneCoin co-founder Karl Sebastian Greenwood has pleaded guilty to federal charges of wire fraud and money laundering in connection to the OneCoin scam.

“As a founder and leader of OneCoin, Karl Sebastian Greenwood operated one of the largest international fraud schemes ever perpetrated,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement. “Greenwood and his co-conspirators, including fugitive Ruja Ignatova, conned unsuspecting victims out of billions of dollars, claiming that OneCoin would be the ‘Bitcoin killer.’ In fact, OneCoins were entirely worthless.”

Launched in 2014 by Ruja Ignatova and Greenwood, OneCoin was marketed and sold as a mineable cryptocurrency through a global multi-level marketing network. Members received commissions for recruiting others to purchase “cryptocurrency” packages. Unlike Bitcoin, Ethereum, or Dogecoin, OneCoin was not mineable because its blockchain did not exist.

Greenwood was arrested in Thailand in July 2018 and extradited to the United States in October 2018. Ignatova was last seen boarding a commercial flight to Athens, Greece, in 2017. In June 2022, Ignatova, who has not been seen since October 2017, was added to the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List.

The agency says Greenwood acted as the “global master distributor” and the leader of the multi-level marketing network through which the fraudulent cryptocurrency was marketed and sold. According to the Justice Department, victims invested over $4 billion worldwide into the scam.

Williams says that statements made by Greenwood were designed to get everyday people all over the world to part with their hard-earned money and to line his own pockets to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. Williams also points to emails between Greenwood and other OneCoin operators detailing their “exit strategy” from the scam.

On December 7, 2022, documents were unsealed in the Southern District of New York at Williams’ request. The document details charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering against former Luxembourg intelligence official Frank Schneider, who acted as OneCoin’s crisis manager following a grand jury hearing in 2020.

While the story of the Cryptoqueen has been overshadowed by the collapse of several prominent cryptocurrency businesses, including FTX, Ignatova remains an ongoing fascination among time crime junkies. In February 2022, Deadline reported that the story of Ruja Ignatova and OneCoin is being adapted for television.

“This guilty plea by the co-founder of OneCoin caps a week at SDNY that sends a clear message that we are coming after all those who seek to exploit the cryptocurrency ecosystem through fraud, no matter how big or sophisticated you are,” Williams said.

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