OneCoin and its criminal enigma mastermind Ruja Ignatova, also known as ‘Cryptoqueen,’ may now be a man, complete with short hair and a beard. That’s according to a range of sketches illustrating the changes the infamous businesswoman might have endured to evade capture.
Ignatova is the only woman on the FBI’s list of 10 most wanted fugitives. She vanished into thin air about this time in 2017. The 40-something-old Bulgarian is wanted for her role in OneCoin, the cryptocurrency scam she founded.
The FBI alleges that Ignatova defrauded people who took part in OneCoin of $4 billion. The scheme had all the makings of a Ponzi. It used network marketing and commissions to gain popularity. Everyone who introduced a new buyer to the platform received a commission.
OneCoin: Sketching the evasive Cryptoqueen
On the anniversary of the last date of Ignatova’s known whereabouts, chances of her being found appear slim. Now new research by TradingPedia shared with BeInCrypto, points towards a possible change of identity.
Brian McColl, an analyst at TradingPedia who led the research, said this might explain why it has been hard for authorities to track her down. He ruled out the possibility of her being dead.
The fact that she is wanted by the FBI and Europol suggests the agencies believe the fraudster is alive, he said.
“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 BeInCrypto.
“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 and even going to the extreme of changing her gender,” he added.
TradingPedia released a catalog of eight faces that Ignatova may have assumed as part of her strategy to evade law enforcement.
A portrait of a scam artist
One sketch suggests Ignatova might have had a complete gender transformation in that she is now a man with short hair and a beard.
Another sketch (below), which is the first, shows no significant weight change or surgical corrections, McColl said. Expression lines around the eyes show how Ignatova may have changed.
The second drawing below shows what Ignatova may look like with a shorter haircut and after losing 5 or 6 kilograms (11-13 pounds) of weight.
In the third sketch (below), Ignatova has her typical hairstyle after losing 5-6 kilograms.
The fourth drawing shows what Ruja Ignatova may look like after losing 5-6 kilograms of weight. Here, she has her original hairstyle but dyed blond.
The fifth sketch shows how Ignatova’s face might have changed after gaining 5-6 kilograms.
The sixth drawing combines several features that may have changed over the past five years – Ignatova might have gained weight (5-6 kilograms) and dyed her hair blond. The length of the hair remains the same.
Sketch number 7 added multiple aesthetic corrections to Ignatova’s face to show what surgical or cosmetic enhancements she might have undergone. These include a chin implant, a jaw reconstruction, cheek implants, a brow lift, and rhinoplasty.
Explaining their methodology, TradingPedia’s Brian McColl said Ignatova is of Roma origin, and this marked a starting point for the sketch designs.
“Roma people preserve high specificity in their genetics and consequently in their phenotype due to the Haplogroup H-M82 (Y-chromosome haplogroup) which is a major lineage cluster in the Balkan Roma,” he explained.
The study looked at the anthropological characteristics of Roma people, which include the lowest cephalic index, a wider nose, dark skin pigmentation, and the densest beard.
“The height is mostly short, rarely medium. Straight dark hair and dark eyes are also typical for the Bulgarian Roma,” said McColl.
They commissioned a criminal sketch artist to do visual permutations of how Ignatova may be looking after adjustments.
There are suggestions that Ruja Ignatova could be hiding in luxury in Dubai. This was suggested by a special BBC podcast by Jamie Bartlett released last month. She was also spotted in southeast Asia — specifically in Thailand.
Documents obtained by the BBC showed that Ignatova worked with Sheikh Faisal bin Sultan Al Qassimi, a royal in the United Arab Emirates, to release funds that had been frozen over suspicion of money laundering.
Ignatova allegedly bought a $20 million villa in the UAE, which may be where she has been hiding out for half a decade now.
The BBC also found that she struck a mega-million deal with the Emirati royal Sheikh Saoud bin Faisal Al Qassimi. Al Qassimi is a known fan of cryptocurrency. In 2015, he reportedly sold 230,000 Bitcoins worth more than $48 million to Ignatova.
Some are suggesting that Ignatova is buying intel from the Bulgarian police. They say that may be the reason she has appeared to outfox investigators for the past five years.
OneCoin remains one of the biggest heist cases in crypto. A woman who sold potential financial freedom proved to be elusive. An enigma.
BeInCrypto has reached out to company or individual involved in the story to get an official statement about the recent developments, but it has yet to hear back.