On March 6th, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested OneCoin ringleader Konstantin Ignatov at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The government alleges that he was one of several masterminds behind the multi-billion dollar crypto pyramid scheme.
OneCoin has faced fines and criminal actions around the world – particularly in India, where 22 promoters have already been charged. China has also levied charges against promoters of OneCoin, while several central banks have issued warnings.
OneCoin claimed to be a revolutionary cryptocurrency. Instead, according to one researcher, it used a simple SQL database rather than a true blockchain. OneCoin’s only rival in terms of scams is BitConnect.
While multiple authorities want to try the OneCoin promoters, the US certainly has the longest history of prosecuting fraudsters in the crypto industry.
US authorities charged Ignatov with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He’s been in the US since February 27th, when customs agents seized his phone and laptop and gathered evidence.
His sister faces more charges: “wire fraud, securities fraud, and money laundering offenses.” She remains at large.
“As a result of misrepresentations that IGNATOV, IGNATOVA, and others made about OneCoin, victims invested billions of dollars worldwide in the fraudulent cryptocurrency. Following his arrest, IGNATOV appeared in Magistrate Court in the Central District of California, and was detained on the charge contained in the Complaint.”
Part of the case against Ignatov and Ignatova relates to the fact that they never launched an actual cryptocurrency. Instead, they used a proprietary SQL database to log transactions within the “OneCoin” network. In typical Ponzi fashion, they encouraged people to invest with promises of “guaranteed” profit.
International authorities have been stupefied by the amount of money the scheme has managed to bring in, especially from impoverished regions like Vietnam, where the scam claimed to have some degree of legitimacy.
Ignatov’s indictment reads , in part:
“OneCoin lacks a true, verifiable blockchain that records OneCoin mining by members […] OneCoins are not in fact mined by members.”
The mention of this fact in the indictment makes the case interesting for crypto enthusiasts. By definition, a public blockchain is hard to call a scam, unless there is a premine or other aspects which unduly reward certain participants.
However, Ignatov and Ignatova very actively claimed their role in the development and promotion of OneCoin. The indictment mentions the following video:
Ignatov says to a co-founder, in one quote:
“As you told me, the network would not work with intelligent people.”
The unnamed co-founder may be a person of interest in the investigation, or may even be co-operating already against Ignatov and Ignatova.
To get people to buy more coins last year, Ignatov told inner circle promoters that they would be going public with OneCoin in October 2018. OneCoin wanted existing investors to buy more of the fake cryptocurrency in anticipation of a price rise. “Going public” never happened, of course.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the arrest is that it puts a damper on the backup plans of OneCoin. As those familiar with the case might be aware, Ignatov’s sister, Ruja Ignatova, is, in fact, the main promoter and owner of the scam. Customs agents detained Ignatov and seized his phone and laptop in late February. They discovered he had full power of attorney over his sister’s assets already.
German authorities have an active warrant and are seeking to arrest Ruja Ignatova.
At this point, it’s clear that anyone still investing new money into OneCoin has not done any research. The scheme specifically targets “idiots” and people who are not “intelligent.” Any cursory search about OneCoin will yield warnings from central banks and numerous reports on the illegitimacy of OneCoin.
Yet, just a day ago a new video went live on YouTube promising an “exchange” for OneCoins.