OneCoin’s Crypto Queen should be old news

I can’t help thinking about all of the ways that several million dollars could help US law enforcement prevent active crypto scams

OPINION
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Earlier this week, the US State Department upped the reward money from $250,000 to $5 million for information about missing OneCoin promoter Ruja Ignatova.

Better known as the Crypto Queen, Ignatova has either been on the run since 2017, when she took a plane to Greece and was never seen in public again — or was murdered by the Bulgarian mafia sometime after, probably on a yacht in the Mediterranean.

But regardless of where Ignatova may be in this world or the next, her multi-billion dollar OneCoin crypto scam is definitely over. Two other higher-ups in the OneCoin family — co-founder Karl Sebastien Greeword and former legal chief Irina Dilkinska — are serving twenty years and four years respectively, with each also paying $300 million and $111 million in fines.

Justice might not be fully served, but it has definitely had a very nice start. So why would the US up her reward by a magnitude of 20? Especially after last year’s BBC special that found pretty convincing evidence that Ignatova fell victim to the selfsame Bulgarian mafioso hired to protect her.

Read more from our opinion section: Eminem’s new crypto ad fails to capture the moment, lets it slip

There’s no doubt that the US loves to prosecute crypto criminals, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Despite the countless op-eds that we have run about the Securities and Exchange Commission’s overreach into the crypto sector, it’s generally considered good when people who break the law are punished for breaking the law. Just look at some of the reactions to sassy headlines about the cop who arrested Justin Timberlake for drunk driving.

However, something about the latest price jump for information about Ignatova (a previous increase brought the original reward from $100,000 to the next quarter of a million number) feels just a little bit off. 

Yes, finding the people behind the massive crypto scams that hurt the livelihood of thousands of people all over the world is definitely a righteous cause. But the crypto industry and the scams that grow out of it right now are so wildly different from the large scale Ponzi schemes of 2017, so much smaller and more insidious, that this latest OneCoin news bump feels a bit like the prosecutors are falling behind the times. 

Catching one of the people behind a multi-billion dollar crypto scam from 2017 would be a great way to ensure that justice has been brought to that scam’s victims, but I can’t help thinking about all of the ways that several million dollars could help US law enforcement prevent the types of crypto scams that are active at this moment. 

Ransomware attacks, SIM swapping, complex DeFi rug pulls, a seemingly never-ending stream of North Korean crypto cyber hacks — I can’t claim that I know for sure that the US is dropping the ball in its prosecution of these more difficult-to-solve crypto crimes, but I do know that they have definitely fumbled before. Remember its highly teased press announcement of the huge crypto scam prosecution that ended up being over an exchange that nobody had ever heard of?

If the US does catch the Crypto Queen from this new, higher bounty, more power to it. And if some other crypto scam emerges that is actively hurting people right now, I hope the US also puts the equivalent of $5 million of effort into stopping it before it gets to the multi-billion dollars worth of fraud — not after.


I don’t care much about tech, I don’t care a whole lot about finance, either. I care about writing stories and watching weird things unfold. And that’s why I’ve ended up in crypto.

But because I’m missing that passion for what crypto and blockchain are all about — finance, tech, privacy, yadda yadda — I’m going to write instead about what I am actually interested in. Everything about crypto that has very little to do with crypto.

That’s what this column will be about. All the tangential stories that come out of the blockchain and crypto space, what I think about them, and how I navigate it all as a skeptical former Russian literature major.

It’s precisely my perch as an outsider that lets me do what I do: Opine on all sides of any crypto issue, no strings attached, no skin in the game.

If you want to talk crypto with me, let’s go off topic.


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